Rafa Benitez reveals why it's 'not easy' for Jonjo Shelvey at Newcastle United

Jonjo Shelvey is fighting to save his Newcastle United career.

Jonjo Shelvey.
Jonjo Shelvey.

Shelvey is yet to make the bench after returning to fitness from injury.

The midfielder – who aggravated a thigh problem in last month’s FA Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers at St James’s Park – has been limited to just eight Premier League starts this season by injuries and the form of others.

Jonjo Shelvey.

Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff established themselves in central midfield in the absence of Shelvey, Mohamed Diame and Ki Sung-yueng last month.

Shelvey, under contract at St James’s Park until 2021, must now wait for another chance in the club’s remaining 10 games along with Diame and Ki.

And Rafa Benitez has admitted that it is “not easy” for the 26-year-old, previously linked with Saturday’s opponents West Ham United, his boyhood club.

“Jonjo needs to prove his match fitness, but match fitness you can only prove by playing games, so it’s not easy at the moment,” said United’s manager.

The only two players unavailable to Benitez are Ciaran Clark and Rob Elliot, and Yoshinori Muto and Antonio Barreca also failed to make the bench for Tuesday night’s 2-0 home win over Burnley.

Newcastle’s fourth successive victory at St James’s Park lifted the club up to 13th in the Premier League ahead of the West Ham game.

“The medical staff keep the players fit, so we have 24 players available,” said Benitez.

“The 11 starters are doing well. We can change one or two players, but they’re doing well.

“Seven players on the bench, that leaves six outside.

“It’s quite difficult (for the players not in the team), but I praise them, because they are very good professionals and training really hard, even though they’re not playing and not on the bench.

“Hopefully, we can carry on doing the same and if I have a chance I will give an opportunity to people to be sure that everybody can be involved.”

Meanwhile, Benitez is expecting a different game at the London Stadium, where Newcastle beat West Ham 3-2 last season.

“This game (against Burnley) was the most important one of the season, and the next game will be the most important,” said Benitez.

“One game at a time – every game is a final for us.

“West Ham will be another tough test, different to this one, because they’re a team that pass the ball.

“I saw their last game. They’re strong, they have pace, they have some good players on the ball and they are sold it too. We will have to be ready.”

United are full of confidence ahead of their visit to the capital.

“We had very difficult games at the beginning of the season and lost confidence,” said Benitez. “We played against top sides and did well, but it wasn’t ideal in terms of results. We needed more confidence.

“Now you can see the team is strong, the team has balance, and that gives us the confidence to approach any game thinking we can score goals, and it will be difficult for the opposition to score against us.

“Our position in the table in terms of goals conceded, I think we’re fifth. For a team that is at the bottom half, I think that is massive in terms of how solid we are.

“We needed to score more goals, now we have more chances, because the team is solid and we have different kinds of players too.”