Rafa Benitez delivers points bombshell ahead of Brighton-Newcastle

Rafa Benitez says 90 points may NOT be enough to get Newcastle United promoted back to the Premier League.
Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez.Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez.
Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez.

Benitez’s side take on Championship leaders Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium tonight.

The two clubs have been neck and neck at the top of the league for much of the season.

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Newcastle are closing in on the 90-point milestone which has, up to now, guaranteed promotion from the 24-team division.

Benitez, however, is taking nothing for granted and he is not setting a points target for his team.

And United’s manager, unwilling to look beyond the next game, has pointed to his experience with former club Napoli in the Champions League.

The Serie A club failed to progress from the group stage of the competition in the 2013-14 season despite amassing 12 points.

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Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal went through to the knockout stages with the same points total.

“We had a figure of 90 points that would guarantee promotion, but not now,” said Benitez.

“That might not be enough. We have to think about one game at a time. We don’t know if that will be enough.

“I was manager of Napoli and we did not qualify from our Champions League group with 12 points, and some do it with seven.”

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Benitez would be happy to finish in the runners-up spot given that promotion, not the title, is the club’s overriding priority.

“I have no problem if someone said to me now that we would go up in second,” said Benitez. “I would take that. I don’t have a problem with trophies.”

The Brighton game is followed by away fixtures against third-placed Huddersfield Town and Reading, who are fifth after their weekend defeat at the Amex Stadium.

Benitez, however, does not believe that United’s fate will be decided over the next eight days.

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“April will be crucial – I’ve said it for months,” said Benitez.

“If we win the next three games, maybe that will be crucial, but we have seven games in April and that is when things will be decided. That’s 24 points.

Newcastle have won 11 times on their travels so far this season.

On his team’s remarkable away record, Benitez added: “We have a good record away.

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“In some ways, you can go there and show your strength, and it is important to have the belief we can do it because we have all season.

“We think about trying to win away because of our record. In football, you never know. If we win at Brighton the next will be easier. Let’s concentrate on Brighton.”