Rafa Benitez has a blunt message for Newcastle fans hoping for an FA Cup run
Rafa Benitez isn't feeling romantic.
Six-times FA Cup winners Newcastle United take on Luton Town at St James’s Park this afternoon in a third-round tie.
Benitez will name what he feels will be a “strong” team for the tie.
However, the cup, yet again, is not a priority given the need, above all else, to stay in the Premier League this season.
It’s a familiar, and depressing, story.
“If you have more money, you can buy better players, you can play better football, so it’s always the same situation,” said Benitez.
“For us now, it’s to stay up, and if we can go through in the FA Cup, we will try to go as far as we can.”
Benitez doesn’t believe the club has the strengthen in depth to win the competition.
“The top six have enough quality, enough players, to compete in any competition, so they can play in three competitions and still they can play very good players,” said Newcastle’s manager.
“You can see the Carabao Cup now and then you see the teams there – you have three top sides – so it’s very difficult to win these competitions if you don’t do everything perfectly, and everything perfectly for a while.”
That isn’t a very romantic view of the competiton, which Benitez won with Liverpool in 2006.
Benitez said: “I can be romantic, but it doesn’t change anything.
“Will I play a weak team? No, I will play a strong team. That’s it, it’s what I can do.
“I told the players ‘listen, we have to win and we want to be sure that we go through’.
“That’s it. After that, you can see the players on the pitch and how it’s going on, and I will try to do my best from the bench to help the team.
“If we do well, fine. We will go to another game and see what happens.
“But I can’t guarantee ‘yeah, we will go and I want to do this and that’.
“No, the first thing is to win your games when you have problems in the Premier League.
“You have to win your games and be sure you can attract more players and bring more players, because you will stay in the Premier League.
“I want to see Newcastle United in the Premier League, stable, and that means that then you can go and try to win cups or whatever.”
United haven’t gone beyond the fourth round of the FA Cup since Mike Ashley bought the club a decade ago.
And Benitez is reluctant to look beyond the third-round tie against Luton, the League Two leaders.
“My focus is to win the next game and go through, and then see what happens,” said Benitez.
“We have one game this week, one game next week, so it’s not that we have to manage with the squad and be very careful.
“Yes, we have to manage, but we can put a strong team on the pitch.”
Asked if he understood the frustrations of supporters at the club’s dismal FA Cup record, Benitez said: “We have to be realistic – it’s not the same Newcastle United as even five years ago as it is now.
“We will try to win this game, and then see where we are in the future.”