Rafa Benitez names the teams to watch in the second half of the Championship season

Rafa Benitez says he has a 'clear' idea of Newcastle United's closest Championship rivals.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 23rd December 2016, 2:38 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 2:00 pm
Chris Hughton
Chris Hughton

Benitez’s side lead the division by one point ahead of this afternoon’s game against sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday.

The division has been labelled a two-horse race between Newcastle and second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion, who are unbeaten in 14 games.

But Benitez is also wary of the teams filling the play-off places.

Asked which sides, if any, would be a threat to United in the second half of the campaign, Benitez said: “For me, it’s clear. The top six teams now will be the strongest

“They will keep the spirit and have confidence. They can achieve something.

Burton Albion manager Nigel Clough described United and Brighton and the Championship’s “two outstanding teams” after seeing his team beaten 2-1 by Newcastle last weekend.

Benitez admires Chris Hughton’s Brighton, who have the quality of Glenn Murray and Anthony Knockaert in their ranks.

“If you analyse Brighton, they are a good team,” said Benitez.

“They have good defenders, with good wingers and a good striker. They are a good team.

“How long can you sustain this run of games? It depends on each team.

“They have good players and a good team. Their first XI is good. Maybe if they have to go to 16th or 18th player, they’re not as good, but they are a good team.”