Aleksandar Mitrovic hopes he’s making life “easy” for Rafa Benitez – and NOT given him a headache.
Two goals from Mitrovic gave Newcastle United a 2-1 win over Preston North End on Saturday.
The mood in the dressing room is always nice. We have to try to stay on top of the league. That’s where we want to be at the end of the season.Aleksandar Mitrovic
And the result saw the club maintain its three-point advantage at the top of the Championship.
Mitrovic was handed his second Championship start after Dwight Gayle was ruled out of the game because of a hamstring injury.
The 22-year-old scored twice in the second half to claim all three points for United.
Gayle – who has scored 11 goals so far this season – has been Benitez’s first-choice striker so far this season.
Mitrovic, however, doesn’t think he’s given Benitez a selection headache ahead of Saturday’s home game against Cardiff City.
Instead, Mitrovic feels his contribution is making life easier for Benitez, who knows he has two in-form strikers.
Asked if he had given Benitez a “difficult decision” to make should Gayle be fit for the Cardiff game, Mitrovic said: “I think it’s easy for him.
“He has two strikers who are scoring goals and midfielders who are scoring goals.
“It’s easy for him to choose. I work hard and try to take my chances when it comes. If I’m on the bench, I will try to fight for my place.”
Mitrovic was the last Newcastle player to leave the pitch at Deepdale, where the team was backed by 5,620 fans in the Bob Shankly Stand and more dotted around the stadium.
The Serbia international, just as he had done after scoring two goals in last week’s 6-0 EFL Cup win over Preston, bounced on the pitch as the club’s fans chanted “Mitro’s on fire”.
Asked about his relationship with the club’s supporters, he said: “It’s always nice when they sing your name. It’s amazing.”
When Mitrovic finally returned to the dressing room, he was congratulated by his team-mates.
“We’re winning games,” he said. “We’re winning hard games and gaining confidence. The mood in the dressing room is always nice. We have to try to stay on top of the league.
“That’s where we want to be at the end of the season.”
Gayle, signed from Crystal Palace in the summer, will be assessed ahead of the Cardiff game.
Whoever starts, there will be no issue between Benitez’s two main strikers.
Asked about his relationship with Gayle, he said: “It’s amazing. He’s an amazing guy, a really positive guy.
“I can learn a lot from him, because we are different type of players. He has good movement and is really fast.
“I’m happy to share the position with someone like him.”
It proved to be a memorable week for Mitrovic.
“It has been an amazing week,” he said. “The only thing I can do is work hard, and when I get a chance, I try to take it. It is up to the gaffer if I play or not.
“We have a lot of quality in the side and a lot of quality on the bench.
“The deliveries for both goals were amazing. I knew I would not get a lot of chances, so when they came, I just had to try and stay focused.”
Benitez feels Mitrovic, like Gayle, can only get better at Newcastle.
“I approach every competition as one game at a time, and it is the same for players in terms of their development,” said United’s manager.
“He is doing well, he is working hard and when he’s not playing he’s working even harder.
“He was doing really well and he was doing what he has to do. He will improve, he will grow and he we want him to keep doing that.”
Benitez, however, still is not minded to play the pair together.
“No one can guarantee that if you play with two strikers you will be much better,” he said. “So we are quite good now.”