Why Rafa Benitez STILL doesn’t know his strongest Newcastle team

Aleksandar Mitrovic
Aleksandar Mitrovic
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Rafa Benitez says he STILL doesn’t know his best team for the Championship – as Newcastle United could sign FOUR more players.

Benitez’s side take on Reading at St James’s Park tonight looking to put back-to-back defeats behind them.

My best team (at the end of the month) will be different because we still want to bring in another three or four players.

Rafa Benitez

The club has already signed eight players, and Benitez is hopeful of more arrivals between now and the end of the month when the transfer window closes.

Benitez made four changes for the weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Huddersfield Town.

And the club’s manager is set to make more changes tonight.

But Benitez still has no idea what his strongest XI will be this season given that the club is chasing targets in several positions.

Asked if he knew his strongest XI yet, Benitez said: “My best team (at the end of the month) will be different because we still want to bring in another three or four players.

“Maybe it will be one, maybe it will be four – it depends on who is leaving and who is available.

“If we bring another two players, it will be because we think they can play.

“If we are changing things, it is not because we are losing, it because we still do not have our team. We do not have our top XI, maybe because two or three of the players are still not here.

“We know the positions, and we will be trying to bring in the players because we know they can play.

“Maybe in three weeks’ time, they will be playing so the team will be different.”

United remain favourites with the bookies to win promotion, and Benitez is confident that his team, which was deservedly beaten by Huddersfield and Fulham, can quickly improve and adjust to life in the Championship.

He said: “I am analysing things and thinking ‘what can I do to improve things?’.

“I have confidence, because I am sure we will be where we want to be at the end of the season.

“We will be stronger when we finish the transfer window, because we will have brought in more players and some players will have left so we will be more focused as a squad.

“We have to be sure that we understand where we are, and we understand where we want to be.

“Then we have to see how we can achieve that. It is not a case that everything we were doing was wrong just because we have lost two games.

“We know a lot of things we have done are right – now we just have to make sure we fix the other things and then maybe we can improve.”

Newcastle have missed suspended striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who has another two games of his ban to serve.

United, without him up front, have lacked a presence in the box, and Huddersfield sat back, defended deep and in numbers and hit them on the break.

“You can pass the ball or you can play direct football,” said Benitez. “But if you have a team deep, waiting, without the space behind, then you have to move the ball and play a possession-based game, or you have to put the ball to the target man all the time for second balls and see what happens.

“We have to move the ball without our target man.

“If you move the ball quickly, then you can attack the spaces. You can do it, but if you don’t find the way then maybe you play with a target man.

“We don’t have too many options at the moment. We’ve made a lot of crosses, but we’re not strong enough in the air.”