Roberto Di Matteo says he was NOT surprised to see Rafa Benitez stay at Newcastle United in the summer.
Benitez chose to stay in the wake of the club’s relegation from the Premier League after talks with owner Mike Ashley.
I think it was a natural evolution for him to stay. I think it suits him quite well to be at Newcastle. I wasn’t surprised.Roberto Di Matteo
Newcastle went on to sign 12 players in the summer un the guidance of Benitez, who succeeded Di Matteo as Chelsea manager in 2012.
United are third in the Championship with eight games played, while Villa are 18th.
Di Matteo, appointed Villa manager in the summer, said: “I think it was a natural evolution for him to stay.
“He went in at the end of last season, and obviously understood what the task was – the players, the team – (and) I think it suits him quite well to be at Newcastle. I wasn’t surprised.”
On his own relationship with “illustrious” Benitez, Di Matteo added: “In general there is a lot of respect between the managers.
“With Rafa it is the same. He has obviously had an illustrious career, and he’s a very good manager.”
Di Matteo – who was frustrated to lose defender Ciaran Clark to Newcastle last month – feels a win over United could kick-start Villa’s campaign.
“They have probably started the season a little bit better,” said the 46-year-old.
“I think they are little bit more settled than us as a team. But it’s probably an even game. We have the home advantage. They are a strong side, but it makes for a good game. It’s a big game for us and Newcastle. It should make it an exciting match.”
On the Championship so far, Di Matteo added: “It seems quite balanced – any team can beat any team.”