Rafa Benitez outlines the ‘positives’ from Newcastle’s trip to Spain

Newcastle United and Royal Antwerp players gather before kick-off.
Newcastle United and Royal Antwerp players gather before kick-off.

Rafa Benitez hailed Newcastle United’s visit to Spain has a success – after watching his side play 135 minutes against Royal Antwerp.

The two clubs drew 1-1 at the Pinatar Arena in Murcia yesterday.

Matt Ritchie put Newcastle ahead in the first of three 45-minute periods, but Alexander Corryn levelled for Antwerp in the 91st minute.

Dwight Gayle had a late penalty saved at the stadium, which attracted a crowd of around 1,000.

The game was arranged after United were left with a 21-day break in their Premier League fixture calendar because of Tottenham Hotspur’s progress in the FA Cup and two rounds of international games.

Reflecting on the training camp and game, Benitez said: “I think it was fine.

“The idea was to have some minutes under their belts and be sure that it was competitive.

“Overall, positive. No injuries, so a lot of good things.

“I think some of them needed to play 90 minutes. A lot of them played 90 minutes, which was good.

“We will see if it will help them at the end of the season.”

Newcastle trained for three days in Spain ahead of the game.

“In terms of the training sessions, they were fine,” said Benitez.

“In terms of the relationship between players and spending time together, it was also positive.

“There were a lot of positives in the game.

“You cannot expect everybody running full pace, but they were competing and doing well.

“There were some bad tackles at the end, which I didn’t like too much, because it’s always a risk.”

Meanwhile, Ritchie says United’s players are to keep their destiny in their own hands.

The club is four points above the relegation zone following the weekend’s fixtures.

“You’ve seen throughout the season that it’s so tight,” said Ritchie, who will now link up with Scotland ahead of games against Costa Rica and Hungary.

“One win or one defeat changes the table so much.

“We can only control what we can control, and we need to make sure that we are prepared and ready for Huddersfield.

“Hopefully, we can get three points then.”

Benitez’s side have beaten Southampton and Manchester United on their last two home outings.

“We’re on a good run, but we need to continue that,” said Ritchie. “After beating Southampton, we’ve given ourselves a little gap over the bottom three, but we want to keep winning and pick up points so hopefully safety will come with that.”

Ritchie feels the trip to Spain has been beneficial.

“It’s been really good,” said the winger. “We’ve come away for some better weather, for a good pitch and it’s been really successful.

“We’ve got this break on the back of the back of a good run of results.

“We’ve got an opportunity where we can keep working, do some training out on the pitch here in the Spain, play a game then have a bit of a breather and go again against Huddersfield.”