Newcastle United briefing: Rafa Benitez takes squad to Spain, Matt Ritchie 'excited' after recall

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez and his Newcastle United players travelled to Spain today ahead of Sunday's game against Royal Antwerp.

Benitez decided to fill a 21-day break in the club's fixture list with a short training camp and game.

United's manager and his squad flew out this morning.

However, it's not yet clear if loan striker Islam Slimani, called up by Algeria for games against Tanzania and Iran, travelled with his club-mates.

The striker is yet to play for United, having arrived on Tyneside with a thigh problem.

Meanwhile, England manager Gareth Southgate will name his latest squad at 2pm today.

There have been calls for the form of Newcastle pair Jamaal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey to be recognised by Southgate.

Here's your daily briefing:

Small squad

Benitez hasn't taken a full squad to Spain, and the club are expected to reveal how travelled later today.

Newcastle will play Royal Antwerp at the 3,000-capacity Pinatar Arena on Sunday.

The unusual game will be split into three 45-minute period segments to give players the time he feels they need on the pitch.

If Slimani has not travelled, it will be hard to see him linking up with his Algeria team-mates next week.

Exciting times

Matt Ritchie has scored in United's last two home games, and the winger's form has earned him a recall to the Scotland squad.

Ritchie is "excited" about the future under Alex McLeish, who has taken over for a second time.

"It's going to be an exciting campaign," Ritchie told Sky Sports. "Obviously, the manager's new.

"There are a lot of new players involved in this current squad, so places will be up for grabs. Hopefully, it can be a really successful couple of years.

"We're aiming to get to the next Euros (in 2020). We start building from next week, and hopefully it can be a successful period."

Safe hands

Freddie Woodman's hoping to return to Newcastle with a Scottish Cup winners medal.

The goalkeeper's penalty heroics against Kilmarnock on Tuesday night saw loan club Aberdeen book a semi-final tie against Motherwell at Hampden Park on April 14.

Woodman saved three spot kicks after the two clubs drew 1-1 after extra time at Rugby Park.

"It would mean everything to play in the final," said the 21-year-old. "I’ve played in a few finals, and when I arrived here I said football is about winning trophies and having medals to look back on.

"I’ve got that opportunity to get to another final, and hopefully we’ll take it.”

Woodman also spoke about his penalty saves.

Meanwhile, United's Rob Elliot has given his verdict on Benitez's squad - and revealed why he disagrees with the club's critics.