Rafa Benitez is hoping Newcastle United’s Under-21s can take a step closer to Wembley.
Ben Dawson’s side take on Macclesfield Town at St James’s Park in the last 32 of the Checkatrade Trophy (7pm kick-off).
In the first game at Doncaster, Kell (Kelland Watts) was playing against one of the top strikers in League One – you don’t get that every week in the Under-23s. It’s a totally different game.Sean Longstaff
Newcastle qualified for the knockout stages after winning group games against Doncaster Rovers, Notts County and Grimsby Town.
“I think every competition is useful when you can win a trophy,” said first-team manager Benitez. “It’s motivation – everyone wants to compete and win.”
Ex-United defender Sol Campbell will take charge of League Two’s basement club for the first time.
Asked about Campbell’s surprise appointment, Benitez said: “Everyone’s different – I don’t know what he has in his head. I started at Real Madrid’s under-16s.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle midfielder Sean Longstaff believes the compeition has been good for the club’s young players.
“It’s been really good,” said Longstaff. “For some of the young lads, it’s been a bit of an experience.
“In the first game at Doncaster, Kell (Kelland Watts) was playing against one of the top strikers in League One – you don’t get that every week in the Under-23s. It’s a totally different game.
“Then you go to Notts County and Grimsby where they’re just lumping balls into the box and you’ve got to defend them and prove on those nights you can deal with that. The games are totally different – they’ve been great.
“Hopefully, they’ll get a chance to go out on loan and do that in the leagues.”