Rafa Benitez talks injuries and pre-season and makes clear who will start up front v Leicester
Rafa Benitez says that 40 points is still the target for Newcastle United.
Despite the likes of Southampton and Stoke dropping like a stone and seemingly ensuring a lower points total will be needed, the United boss sees that as the very minimum of Newcastle ambtions in these remaining games.
The quicker Newcastle reach safety, then the better for NUFC not just for this season, but also the next one.
Rafa explaining that the sooner he knows then he can start proper planning with his team and admitted that earlier on Friday he had even discussed pre-season training with ‘some of the players’.
Benitez believes that the win over Manchester United was a big turning point in the season, not only for the three points, but the fact it also gave both players and fans a lot more confidence that Newcastle could reach safety.
With Slimani unable to play against his employers, the forward options are limited.
Dwight Gayle and Ayoze Perez have been the regular starters and that seems sure to continue against Leicester.
Rafa Benitez says his squad is pretty much injury free now, with Joselu recovering from an ankle injury, but he made the point that the former Stoke player is ‘nearly fully fit’.
A big hint that surely it will be a place on the bench at best for the big forward.
The manager also indicated that Mohamed Diame came off against Huddersfield simply as a precaution.
Rafa Benitez pre-Leicester press conference:
“What Leicester achieved in winning the Premier League (in 2015/16) was massive.
“They were well organised and Ranieri did a great job.
“Now they are so dangerous and on a good run.
“You have more time to manage [the earlier you reach Premier League safety] and to think about the future.
“You can then start working with the players because they need to know their future as well.
“Today I was talking to some of the players about when we start pre-season.
[On Martin Dubravka]
“He’s a keeper with experience and someone who is a talker, giving instructions to defenders.
“Apart from the saves, he’s aware of things going on around the box and that’s crucial for a defender.
“We need to keep on winning and the target still is 40 points. Forty is the number.
“Manchester United was a massive game [and turning point] and gave us a lot more confidence…gave fans and the players gave us a massive lift.”
“We don’t have any (injury) problems.
“Slimani obviously can’t play, Joselu has recovered so he’s nearly fully fit, so more or less everyone is available.”
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