Rafa Benitez reveals why he is STILL not concerned about the Championship table

Rafa Benitez says he is STILL not concerned about the Championship table.
Rafa Benitez with Jonjo Shelvey at the end of the Derby gameRafa Benitez with Jonjo Shelvey at the end of the Derby game
Rafa Benitez with Jonjo Shelvey at the end of the Derby game

Newcastle United ended the weekend top of the division after Brighton and Hove Albion drew 3-3 with Brentford.

Benitez’s side beat Derby County 1-0 at St James’s Park on Saturday to return to the summit.

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But United’s manager has again insisted that he is not preoccupied with the table, despite pressure from Brighton and the likes of Reading, Leeds United and Huddersfield Town.

Instead, Benitez says all Newcastle – who take on Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux on Saturday – must focus on is their next game.

“I’m not really worried about the table,” said Benitez.

“It depends on us. If we carry on winning our games, we will be there. You cannot be watching when you have so many teams around now.

“Reading are doing well. Huddersfield are doing well. It’s not just Brighton. Leeds are doing well. You have to make sure you are doing your job.”

The Derby result saw United end a difficult week on a high.

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Newcastle had been knocked out of the FA Cup by League One club Oxford United the previous weekend.

United failed to strengthen before Tuesday night’s transfer deadline and were held to a draw by Queens Park Rangers the following evening.

Newcastle fans showed their support for Benitez before, during and after the Derby game.

Asked if the victory – and backing from fans – had been important for him, Benitez said: “I’m not thinking about me. I’m thinking about the fans and players.

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“The players need to feel the support of the fans. The fans have to realise that we are here together.

“If everything is fine, everybody will enjoy it. They are crucial for us. They are key for players.”

Benitez had appealed for unity after the transfer window closed.

“What we said is clear,” he said. “After the transfer window, we have to stick together.

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“We keep working hard. We try to win games. Then we will have plenty of time to see what happens.

“If we are winning games, we will enjoy. That’s it.”

Meanwhile, United goalkeeper Tim Krul, on loan at AZ Alkmaar, played his first senior competitive game since October 2015 on Saturday.

Krul – who ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament playing for Holland – was on the losing side as AZ lost 4-2 to PSV Einhoven.

“I have mixed feelings, to be honest,” said Krul, who spent the first half of the campaign on loan at Ajax.

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“I am pleased to be back playing pain-free after one year. But I am disappointed that we did not get a result.

“I believe that we gave three goals away, and we know that PSV are not shy in taking their chances. We were not sharp enough.

“We have a fantastic group with a lot of talent, and we have to learn quickly and look ahead to our next game.”

Krul added: “It will take a few games to find my rhythm again.”