Why cup success would be a BONUS for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle

Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez.

Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez.

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Rafa Benitez says the cup competitions are a “bonus” for Newcastle United – and NOT a distraction.

Benitez’s side take on Preston North End in the EFL Cup tonight.

And the club is expecting its highest home crowd in the competition for 40 years.

Newcastle have already sold more than 42,000 tickets for the fourth-round tie, and the match could attract the highest gate since 49,902 watched a Wembley-bound United take on Tottenham Hotspur at the semi-final stage in 1976.

The club did not view cup success as a priority up to last season, when a widely-criticised policy towards the domestic cups was ditched.

For his part, Benitez does not believe success in either the EFL Cup or FA Cup would be detrimental to the Championship-leading club’s goal of promotion.

The cup competitions are a bonus – a bonus for the fans, a bonus for the players who need minutes and a bonus for the club.

Rafa Benitez

“The cup competitions are a bonus – a bonus for the fans, a bonus for the players who need minutes and a bonus for the club,” said United’s manager.

“If we win, we may play against one of the big teams that we should be expecting to play against as one of the top Premier League clubs.

“We know that if we want to be more consistent in terms of winning trophies, you have to get to the top league, earn more income and then bring in the best players and you have more chance of winning the trophies.”

Benitez, however, will not take any “risks” with his team selection for the Preston game.

“I don’t just want to say what the fans want to hear,” he said.

“We have to win this game. If we win it, we will see where we are and approach the next one in the same way – trying to win.

“I would never lose and think ‘it doesn’t matter’, but I will also not risk players who I do not need to risk. If I have players with knocks or problems, I will not take the risk now because we don’t need to do it.”

In the longer term, Benitez feels the Premier League’s riches would undoubtedly help Newcastle compete for trophies should the club return to the top flight.

“You have to win trophies, but in modern football, you can’t think that it’s just to win trophies and that’s it,” he said.

“You have to win trophies, and if you want to win trophies, you have to be as strong as you can.

“To be as strong as you can, you have to be in a top competition in which you can increase income and revenue for your club to bring in the best players.

“It’s so simple to understand. We want to go to the Premier League to increase our income, buy better players and to give ourselves the best chance of winning trophies in the future.

“At the moment, we will try to win this game and see where we are.”