Why Rafa Benitez wants Aleksandar Mitrovic to make MORE headlines at Newcastle

Rafa Benitez wants everybody to be talking about Aleksandar Mitrovic at the end of the season.

Newcastle United's Aleksander Mitrovic celebrates.
Newcastle United's Aleksander Mitrovic celebrates.

The Newcastle United striker is set to lead the line against Bristol City at St James’s Park this afternoon in the absence of Dwight Gayle.

Mitrovic has already scored six goals this season – four of them have come in the Championship – and Benitez feels he can score many more before the end of the campaign.

It was claimed this week that Paris Saint-Germain had failed in a bid to sign the 22-year-old in last month’s transfer window.

Benitez suggested in his pre-match Press conference that stories about Mitrovic have come from someone “close” to the Serbia international who is intent on moving him to another club.

United’s manager is hoping to see Mitrovic make more headlines over the coming weeks and months – for his goalscoring.

“I said before (January) that he would stay,” said Benitez.

“Now we concentrate on Bristol City and do our job.

“If he scores 15 goals between now and the end of the season, everybody will be talking about him. That’s good for me too.

“The main thing is that if he scores goals, everybody will talk.

“He’s scoring goals and playing well, so I’m pleased with him.”

Asked about speculation about his future last month, Benitez added: “I can read news about him all the time.

“That means someone close to him was interested to do business.

“But I said straightaway that he would stay, and his reaction when he was not playing was brilliant.

“He fought for his position and I am happy with these kind of problems.”

Daryl Murphy, signed from Ipswich Town last summer, impressed in January after finally getting a chance at United in the wake of injuries to Mitrovic and Gayle.

Mitrovic, however, is likely to get the nod against City, though Benitez could well rotate his strikers for the three away games which follow the fixture.

“Mitro was injured against Birmingham and then Gayle was injured and we had to play Daryl,” said Benitez, whose side lead the Championship by a point.

“He was ahead, but after Mitro was coming back and Daryl was a little bit tired in one game.

“Now you have to decide between one or the other one. To be fair I can talk really well about both.”

Benitez – whose first-choice striker is Gayle – has admitted that Mitrovic found it difficult to adjust to life on the bench early in the campaign.

“Everybody expected him to score a lot of goals,” said Benitez.

“Then Gayle did well and scored goals.

“Maybe it was not easy for him to understand why when he could be the No 1. He was waiting.

“Because he realised Gayle was doing really well, he had to perform better.

“He was working harder and realised he had to perform. He had to go on the pitch and make the difference.”

Meanwhile, Benitez is carefully considering his options for the next 11 days.

“When you play two or three competitions, you need to think about all these things,” he said. “When you’re in one competition, even when the games are close, it depends how they feel.

“Maybe you have players playing a lot of games in a short spell of time who say they feel fine, but they can’t give you the same level as someone else. Then you would maybe change.

“Other players recover very quickly from games, so that is something you would think about.

We are monitoring them. We have our tests. We will keep an eye on them and pick the team that will be the sharpest on the day.”