Rafa Benitez opens up about Newcastle's FA Cup chances

Rafa Benitez has warned fans that it will be 'difficult' for Newcastle United to have a run in the FA Cup.
Rafa Benitez and Jacob Murphy.Rafa Benitez and Jacob Murphy.
Rafa Benitez and Jacob Murphy.

Benitez’s side take on Championship club Blackburn Rovers in the third round of the competition this evening.

United’s manager will make changes for the game, though he believes the team he names will be strong enough to book a place in the fourth round of the cup.

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However, Benitez insists it would be tough for United to have a run in the cup given the greater resources available to the club’s Premier League rivals.

“For this match, I will play players who, in my opinion, can win this game,” said Benitez.

“And, in my opinion, it will help the team to have more competition in certain areas.

“All the players in the squad, they will feel that they can be part of the group and that they can give something to the team. I have to decide that, like any other team does, too.

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“If any big team plays with their reserve team and they win, then they’re fine. Why? Because they’re stronger, because they’re the top six, and a different team can win games for them.

“What does that mean? It means that they are stronger than the others, and then you have to pick your best team available, and I will do that. I will pick my best team available for this game.”

Asked if his squad was strong enough to compete in the FA Cup, Benitez said: “To win this one? I hope so.”

Freddie Woodman and Sean Longstaff are expected to come into the starting XI.

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Jacob Murphy could also be handed a start against Blackburn, while Ciaran Clark is back from injury.

“This week my priority is this game,” said Benitez. “Then, if we go through, then we’ll think about the next one. Is it difficult now? Yes.

“When teams like Manchester United are spending £400million (on their squads), (Romelu) Lukaku on the bench with Alexis (Sanchez).

“Then you look at Liverpool and Manchester City, who have spent £500million over the last three years. Everybody praises them. Well, fine, that’s football now. It’s about money.

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“You can still achieve what you want to achieve by doing the right things at the right time, or by spending money. Each club has their own way. That’s it.”

It is 13 years since United got past the fourth round of the FA Cup, and the club’s previous policy of fielding weakened teams in the competition angered fans.

But Benitez, for his part, doesn’t believe that Newcastle can compete in the cups against teams with stronger squads.

“Sometimes at the end you need a draw which suits you, because sometimes games are more difficult and you come up with a team with a strong squad,” said Benitez.

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“It means that there are very, very strong teams in the division, and the timing maybe is not right sometimes.”

It is almost 50 years since United last won a major trophy.

Asked about the club’s failure to win any silverware since the 1969 Fairs Cup success, Benitez said: “I can see the potential, but I can see that it will be difficult if we don’t change something in the future.

“I can talk about my time here, but I cannot talk about much more before then. In terms of how they were managing or running the club before, I don’t know.

“What I did in the teams that I was working as a manager, then I know how to do things and how to progress.

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“You have to think about the project, start doing things in the Academy, and everything has to be linked with this idea and vision.

“Then you can improve things.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka has been named the North East Football Writers’ Player of the Year for 2018.