Rafa Benitez steadfast in his view about where Newcastle need to strengthen

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

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Rafa Benitez says Newcastle United’s form without Jonjo Shelvey has NOT changed his thinking about the transfer window.

The club has lost two of the three games played since Shelvey started a five-match suspension.

We have some time now to prepare for the cup game. Afterwards, we will consider everything in the league. We have to carry on doing the same things.

Rafa Benitez

And Monday’s 1-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers saw the club lose top spot in the Championship.

But Benitez – whose side trail league leaders Brighton and Hove Albion by two points – says he already knew the areas he wanted to strengthen long before Shelvey’s absence exposed a lack of midfield creativity in his squad.

United’s manager is looking to sign a midfielder and a winger, and possibly a striker, in this month’s window.

But he says it is “not an easy market” given the sums being offered by Premier League clubs rivalling them for players.

Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek is a loan target, while the club has also been linked with Everton’s Tom Cleverley.

Asked if his view of what he needed had changed, Benitez said: “We knew the areas we wanted to improve.

“We will try to find something if possible. January’s not an easy market.”

Benitez also insisted that United had planned ahead for the departures of Mohamed Diame, Christian Atsu and Chancel Mbemba, who could be away at the African Cup of Nations until next month.

Newcastle, without Shelvey for two more matches, take on Championship rivals Birmingham City at St Andrew’s in a third-round FA Cup tie on Saturday.

Benitez is considering his options, among them fit-again goalkeeper Rob Elliot, for the fixture against Gianfranco Zola’s struggling side.

Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic could also be recalled to Benitez’s squad, having not been involved against Blackburn.

Benitez was happy with his team’s performance at Ewood Park, where they were beaten by a second-half goal from Charlie Mulgrew.

“We have some time now to prepare for the cup game,” Benitez told BBC Radio Newcastle.

“Afterwards, we will consider everything in the league. We have to carry on doing the same things.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle’s Under-23s beat Bradford City 6-0 in a Central League Cup tie yesterday.

Tom Heardman scored a hat-trick for Peter Beardsley’s side, while Yasin Ben El-Mhanni (2) and Luke Charman also found the net at the League One club’s Rawdon Meadows training ground.