Why big names at Newcastle are NOT undroppable under Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez says he won’t be afraid to drop big names at Newcastle United as he looks to guide the club to safety.

Benitez left Jonjo Shelvey and Aleksandar Mitrovic out of his starting XI against Swansea City at the weekend.

And neither player is guaranteed a recall against Manchester City at St James’s Park tonight.

A win would lift the second-bottom club, which beat Swansea 3-0 on Saturday to move within three points of 17th-placed Norwich City, out of the bottom three.

Benitez will finalise his team selection today after an extra session.

And United’s manager – who handed Moussa Sissoko the captaincy against Swansea – will not be afraid to make more bold calls between now and the end of the season.

Asked if any player was “undroppable”, Benitez said: “As I said before, I don’t think about names.

“I’m just thinking about what we need on the pitch to win.

“If someone is not happy because he’s not playing, it’s not a problem.

“Now, we have to really, really focus on what we want, and everybody has to give everything.

“If someone thinks ‘I can do this’ or ‘I can do that’, they need to perform on the pitch and show that they are ready.

“I think that we now that all of them are competing and pushing. That is good for us.

Benitez only tells his players the starting XI 90 minutes before kick-off time.

And the 56-year-old – who made five changes for the Swansea game – has admitted it is unlikely that he will name the same team twice between now and the end of the season.

“When you play two games a week, normally you have to change players,” said Benitez.

“If you say I will stick with the same team for three months, then after you know they will be really tired.

“When you play one game a week, you can repeat the team if things are going well. Maybe you will change one or two, but not too many.

“What we have is a team that were not performing and needed to play better and needed to show more character. We knew.

“Then we said we will play these players, but I didn’t realise how many changes I was making. People are telling me after. Five changes? I didn’t know.

“I was just picking these players, these players and these players. Now I will do the same.

“I won’t think about the next game against Liverpool on Saturday.

“The only thing they need to understand what you expect from them. If they are on the bench or playing and you have to change, what do you expect?

“Before the game I told him (Jonjo) that he would not play and after in the training session we were talking and he was telling me what he needed to do.

“Little things that he wanted to improve. That is really positive because you have players competing and that is really good for the team.”