Rafa Benitez sat down with the media in his pre-match press conference to discuss various topics ahead of Newcastle United’s trip to Wolves on Monday night.
The Magpies come off the back of a decent run of league performances, beating Cardiff City and Manchester City before running Tottenham Hotspur close at Wembley last weekend.
This has taken Newcastle up to 15th in the Premier League, although they sit just two points above the relegation zone.
Wolves, meanwhile, have won their last three league games, scoring at least three on each occasion.
This leaves Newcastle’s next opponents as the current best of the rest behind the top six, 14 points above United.
Newcastle will be keeping an eye on Southampton hosting Cardiff as well as Burnley’s trip to Brighton before the Magpies’ tricky trip themselves.
Benitez had plenty to say regarding the fixture, new signings Antonio Barreca and Miguel Almiron, injury news, as well as their Spanish training camp.
Here’s what the gaffer had to say…
Things look much better for Benitez this weekend with Paul Dummett, Ki Sung-yueng and Mohamed Diame all back fit.
However, Monday appears to soon for Jonjo Shelvey, although the 26-year old is now close. Benitez said:
“We are much better. Apart from Jonjo and [Rob] Elliot, everyone else is fit and available. They have been training. We have big decisions to make on both the starting XI and the squad in general. It is good news and competition is good.
“Shelvey is close, he has trained outside, but one or two weeks.”
On Miguel Almiron
Monday is the first game Newcastle have their record transfer available after he was granted his work permit.
The boss has been pleased with what he has seen so far from Almiron:
“I think he has adapted fine. Training has been okay. He is a fit, mobile, dynamic lad. People talk about the physicality, so we will see how he copes. What I can say about Miguel is that he’s a nice lad, a worker and is very professional. He will be fine.”
On the Spanish training camp
Newcastle have a 12-day break from competitive games after Monday’s fixture and the first-team squad will head to Spain.
The Magpies boss will take his side abroad as part of their preparations for the visit of Huddersfield Town on February 23.
And Newcastle will also round off the training camp with a friendly against CSKA Moscow on February 16. Benitez said:
“We will try to do it because it is important when you have so many days. And you have new players, it’s time to adjust things.
“We are not going on holiday, we are working. The friendly will give players a good opportunity to play a game.”
Benitez has been impressed with Nuno Espirito Santo’s side but was quick to point out the money they have spent.
“Wolves are doing well. They have a good manager, very good players, and they may be newly promoted but they spent more than £100 million.
“They have champions of Europe and internationals in their side. They are a good team doing well. We want to get three points regardless.
“We know we didn’t deserve to lose against Wolves at St James’ Park and everything was wrong, but every game is a final for us.”
On Antonio Barreca
Another of Newcastle’s new signings could also make his full debut, but the manager knows he also needs time. Benitez said:
“Barreca is doing okay. His English is worse than Almiron’s, but we can communicate with him in Italian.
“He knows what we want, and this week away will be a good chance for him to integrate. He is another one who needs time but he is really focused too.”
On the late Monday night fixture
Benitez wasn’t too pleased with the change of fixture time to Monday night and has sympathy for the travelling Geordie fans.
Newcastle did end a horrific run on this particular weekday this season; they had lost their previous 10 Premier League games on a Monday night before beating Burnley in November. He said:
“When you have this situation then you know we have to wait over the weekend. You cannot chance anything, you just have to prepare your game properly and make sure the games aren’t affected by the other results.
“Normally our fans are travelling more than anyone and the timing has been really bad. I don’t know if it is a coincidence but it is a pity for our fans. It doesn’t depend on us though unfortunately.”