Rafa Benitez reveals his Checkatrade Trophy dilemma at Newcastle
Rafa Benitez is reluctant to risk any senior players in Newcastle United's Checkatrade Trophy tie against Sunderland.
The club’s Under-21s take on the League One side at the Stadium of Light tonight.
Newcastle can name two over-age players in their team for the last 16 tie.
However, Benitez, grappling with a hectic league and cup fixture list and a number of absences, is unwilling chances with players needed for the club’s upcoming first-team games, despite his keenness to help coach Ben Dawson.
Two players who could be added to Dawson’s squad are Sean Longstaff and Jamie Sterry, who played in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Championship side Blackburn Rovers at St James’s Park.
“I will check with the staff what we will do with players,” said United manager Benitez.
“We are quite busy, I wont change too much of what we were going to do with the first team.
“We don’t know how many we can play, because we have to decide who can cope with playing games. We have a lot of games. One or two can play, but we will have to decide if it’s important for them, for us.
“For us, the main thing is to make sure we do the right thing for the first team, the Under-23s and the club.”
Sunderland, third in League One, are the club’s biggest test so far in the Checkatrade Trophy.
Newcastle won their group games against Doncaster Rovers, Notts County and Grimsby Town and beat Sol Campbell’s Macclesfield Town on penalties in their last 32 tie at St James’s Park last month.
Benitez is keen to help Dawson, though his priority is the club’s Premier League campaign.
United are 15th in the division, and two points above the relegation zone, ahead of Saturday’s game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
“What I don’t want is to risk anyone, because we don’t have too many (players), but at the same time, we will see if we can help if it’s possible,” said Benitez.