Rafa Benitez reveals why he needs a quick 'fix' at Newcastle United

A change is as good as a rest for Rafa Benitez.

By Miles Starforth
Friday, 8th February 2019, 3:08 pm
Updated Friday, 8th February 2019, 3:36 pm
Rafa Benitez.
Rafa Benitez.

And, for the second season running, Benitez will take his Newcastle United players to Spain for a short training camp and a friendly.

It worked last season – the club won three successive games after plugging a 21-day gap in its fixture list – and Benitez hopes it will work again.

The squad, which doesn’t have a game on the FA Cup fifth round weekend, will head out after Monday night’s game against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux.

“We go for training – we did it last year,” said Benitez.

“We had double training sessions. What we wanted was good conditions, good weather and everybody sticking together.

“I think it’s an opportunity to get to know each other and fix the things that we need to fix in terms of tactics.

“It was quite positive and hopefully it will be positive again.

“Over there you have more time (together). Maybe we will organise a dinner. We do normal things. It’s a change of environment.”

Newcastle will again be based at a secluded hotel and leisure complex south of Alicante.

And the team will play CSKA Moscow – who are third in the Russian Premier League – at the 3,500-capacity Pinatar Arena, which hosted a friendly against Royal Antwerp last March.

That game, played over three 45-minute periods, ended in a 1-1 draw.

Why do United need to play a friendly?

“Because if you have been working there it’s good to have an opportunity to play,” said Benitez. “If you have an opportunity to play against a good team, great.”

Benitez does not yet know if the game, like the Antwerp fixture, will be played over 160 minutes to give more players an opportunity to top-up their match fitness ahead of the February 23 home game against Huddersfield Town.

“We have to decide – it depends on the other team,” said United’s manager.

Other Premier League teams tend to go further afield for mid-season training camps.

However, Benitez – who prefers to play pre-season fixtures closer to home – was not tempted by a trip to the Middle East.

And the hotel suits Benitez as there are few distractions, bar a golf course, for his players.

“We could go to Portugal or anywhere else if it’s the right place,” said Benitez. “We know this place, the pitch is good, the hotel is good.

“Not too many distractions around, so we can focus on that. It’s what we’re looking for.

“A lot of clubs maybe spend too much time in the sun, we spend time on the pitch.

“The weather will be good, around 18 degrees, but that’s not the main thing.

“We have the pitch we want, the conditions we’re looking for.

“Everything’s in place. Maybe we go somewhere else and the hotel is better, but the main thing is the training pitch.”

Asked if last season’s trip contributed to the team’s 10th-placed finish, Benitez said: “For sure, because we came back from Spain and we won three games in a row.

“If we can do the same it will be quite good.”