Newcastle United briefing: Rafa Benitez considers overseas friendly, Bob Moncur leaves board

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez is preparing his Newcastle United players for arguably the club's biggest game yet this season.

Benitez's side, beaten 2-0 by Liverpool at the weekend, take on Southampton at St James's Park on Saturday ahead of a 21-day break.

Mikel Merino at Anfield

Mikel Merino at Anfield

Newcastle are 16th in the Premier League and two points above the relegation zone.

Rivals Crystal Palace lost 3-2 to Manchester United last night despite going two goals up at Selhurst Park.

Benitez, meanwhile, hopes to arrange a friendly to fill the gap in the club's fixture list, while it has been confirmed that Fairs Cup-winning captain Bob Moncur is no longer on United's board.

Here's your daily briefing:

Jamaal Lascelles

Jamaal Lascelles

Gameplan

Jamaal Lascelles believes there were "positives" to take from the club's defeat at Anfield.

Goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane saw a dominant Liverpool take all three points.

“We knew it was going to be tough going to Anfield,” said 24-year-old Lascelles. “Our tactic was to try and stay in the game as long as possible, and try to get into the second half, then when their fans start getting on them we would go for it.

“We stuck to our gameplan, but unfortunately they opened us up and scored first.

“At half-time, we thought we’d come in, refresh and listen to the manager, who told us to stay in the game as long as possible and try to put more pressure on them at the end.

“But they scored again, and up against a team like this, it becomes really difficult, because they have world-class players.

“Credit to the boys, they kept running until right through until the end. They put in a shift, and we’ll look at what we did wrong and how we can correct it this week.

“We’ll try to take the positives too and go again against Southampton.”

Board change

Moncur – who led Newcastle to the Fairs Cup in 1969 – was appointed to United's board in the summer of 2015 along with then-head coach Steve McClaren and chief scout Graham Carr.

Managing director hailed the new set-up as a "positive step forward" for the club, though it is unclear how many formal board meetings were held before McClaren's departure the following year.

Carr has also since left St James's Park, and it emerged this week that Moncur is no longer a director of the club, though the 73-year-old continuing as an ambassador.

Moncur is also a patron of the Newcastle United Foundation.

Unwelcome break

Benitez is looking to arrange a friendly for his team their extended break.

Newcastle are without a game between the Southampton home game and Huddersfield Town's March 31 visit to St James's Park because of Tottenham Hotspurs' progress in the FA Cup and a round of international fixtures.

Non-league club Hartlepool United are keen on a match, but Benitez is prepared to take Newcastle further afield if he can find the "right team" to play.

McClaren took United to La Manga, Spain, for a game against Lillestrom in similar circumstances in February 2016.

And Benitez is considering taking his players to his homeland, though his preference is match closer to home.

Sunderland switch

Tomorrow night's reserve derby has been moved.

The quarter-final of the Premier League International Cup between Sunderland and Newcastle had been scheduled to be played at Eppleton CW, but it has now been switched to the Stadium of Light (7pm kick-off).