I don’t like him but 10 out of 10 for Mark Hughes when it comes to his brutal honesty on Saturday.
At 2pm yesterday afternoon, Newcastle fans discovered that Rafa Benitez had made seven changes to the team that played a very much backs to the wall performance against Manchester City on Wednesday.
At the same moment, Stoke fans were finding out that having travelled to West London, they were set to have an even more uncomfortable afternoon at Stamford Bridge than they imagined.
Stoke’s players had a day and a half’s extra rest (compared to Newcastle’s) having played out a 1-1 draw at Huddersfield on Boxing Day. Nevertheless, Mark Hughes made seven changes to his team.
The Stoke boss put out a clearly second choice team, which included leaving out five of the front six who started at Huddersfield.
Whilst Rafa Benitez amusingly claimed that his eleven against Manchester City were his first choice team and not a situation of rotating/resting and keeping his better players fresh and available for the more winnable Brighton match, Mark Hughes instead told it like is was after being hammered 5-0 by Chelsea.
Hughes’ team hardly had a kick, the stats showing Chelsea with 21 shots to Stoke’s one, whilst the visitors didn’t have a single corner.
“The decisions weren’t easy but they were decisions I was prepared to make.
“It’s about getting the win against Newcastle now.
“We hope we will get it and then this Christmas period will have been a good return. It would be two wins, a draw, and a defeat to Chelsea.
“We will have Joe Allen available, Shaqiri available, Choupo-Moting only did 10 to 15 minutes today (as a late sub), Kurt Zouma is available, maybe Erik Pieters. The landscape for Monday changes completely hopefully.
“We were stretched today, what we had defensively was what you saw. We had two young lads playing at a level way above where they’ve been playing in recent years. It’ll test them.
“The back four pairing hadn’t played together from memory. It was always going to be difficult for us. Clearly we made a poor start. There were collective errors and individual errors as well right through the game. It was difficult.
“We knew we’d be stretched playing the reigning champions.
“I knew they would have the quality to hurt us even with our best available 11 and today we couldn’t get that out on the pitch.
“I made decisions I feel will help us with the game we have on Monday.
“We rested players carrying knocks who will be fresh and ready to go (against Newcastle).”
As for Rafa Benitez, after the makeshift side he put out against Man City, he must have been gutted to see just how poor his team were against Brighton, clearly his best eleven as he went for the three points in this relegation clash.
Stoke have had a win over West Brom and the draw with Huddersfield before playing Chelsea, Hughes would clearly be ecstatic if they made it seven point from nine against relegation rivals if beating Newcastle.
The Magpies definitely need a win at Stoke but a defeat would be a complete disaster after only a point against Brighton.
The only positive is that Mark Hughes is clearly going all out for the win on Monday and that should suit Newcastle, whose lack of creativity was totally exposed against a Brighton side who were solid at the back and determined not to concede, hoping to score on a break of their own.
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 0 Brighton 0
Possession was Brighton 55% Newcastle 45%
Total shots were Brighton 10 Newcastle 11
Shots on target were Brighton 3 Newcastle 2
Corners were Brighton 6 Newcastle 3
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie (Perez 72), Hayden, Merino (Shelvey 76), Atsu, Joselu (Murphy 84), Gayle
Woodman, Manquillo, Mbemba, Diame
Crowd: 52,209 (2,200 Brighton)
(Read the instant Newcastle fan/writer reaction to the draw with Brighton HERE)
(The most worrying thing about Newcastle’s performance – Read HERE)
(Read the match ratings from the goalless draw HERE)