Rafa Benitez explains why he dropped Aleksandar Mitrovic
Fair to say that most Newcastle fans would have put their money on Rafa Benitez selecting Aleksandar Mitrovic ahead of Dwight Gayle at Elland Road.
We would have all lost our money.
In fact you could say that about two of the other three changes as well. Whilst Matt Ritchie was always very likely to get the nod after suspension, Colback & Anita preferred to Hayden & Yedlin were another two big calls that most supporters would probably have swung the other way with.
In the lead up to this Leeds match, Mitrovic had seven goals in his last five starts for club and country, whilst Gayle hadn’t kicked a football competitively in over a month.
However, Rafa Benitez explained all of his changes just by talking about the decision to leave out his Serbian striker.
The United boss saying ‘it will always be an advantage’ for players who don’t get selected by their countries, after an international break.
Both Yedlin and Hayden had been away playing for their countries, whilst Colback and Anita stayed on Tyneside training with their Newcastle teammates.
As for Matt Ritchie, both he and Christian Atsu had been called up, but the Ghanaian winger had significantly more travelling involved and played more minutes when he was away.
It is now four months clear of international breaks so a straight ‘fight’ between Gayle and Mitrovic, interesting to see when he next get his chance, though a busy December could help Rafa’s rotation.
“It’s quite difficult for me to decide whether I play Mitrovic or Gayle because they both train really well and score goals.
“I have a lot of confidence in both and you have to analyse how they are in the training sessions. Dwight Gayle was here training with us and not with the national team like Mitrovic, so it will always be an advantage.
“Mitrovic is training really well though and a great goal against Wales (last weekend for Serbia).
“You can talk about this (ambitious penalty claim from Leeds) for half an hour and it wouldn’t change much, in the end a good game against a good team.
“I have to say thank you to every player, we could see a performance today against a good team – we saw the effort, the mentality was good and the understanding of the game was very good.
“The atmosphere we were talking about was intimidating but we controlled ourselves – we knew what they could do but the players applied themselves and it’s a credit to them.
“Everything we tried to do we did well, set-pieces, control of the game and counter-attack. There is room for improvement but I can’t complain because we did very well.
“Obviously when you win, you then want to win as many games (more) as you can but we just need to concentrate, get three points each time, then after that you can look at the record and people will tell me (what records have been broken).
“Every game though in the Championship is so difficult and we must be sure that the approach is right each time.”
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