What Gianfranco Zola had to say about Newcastle – and Rafa Benitez's response

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

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Gianfranco Zola's given his verdict on Newcastle United – and their promotion chances.

Zola's struggling Birmingham City side held Newcastle to a goalless draw at St Andrew's yesterday.

And the result saw Rafa Benitez's team go a point clear of Brighton and Hove Albion, who were beaten 2-0 by Leeds United at Elland last night.

Newcastle are also seven points clear of third-placed Huddersfield Town, who have a game in hand.

Birmingham manager Zola is in no doubt about where United will be playing their football next season.

"They will go up," said Zola. "They have quality and a very good coach. They have everything you need.

"When I look at their team, I think they will go up 100%, for sure.

"I hope that too, because they are a good side."

Benitez, however, is reluctant to look beyond United's next game, the April 1 home fixture against Wigan Athletic.

Asked about Zola's comments, Benitez said: "Gianfranco is a good friend. It was nice for him to say that.

"We have experience, and we are playing with confidence, but there is still eight games to go.

"We have one more point than before, and Huddersfield lost. It's one less game and one more point.

"So it's a better position than before the game, but we're still not very happy because we could have got three points."