Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez sat down with the media today in his pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow’s home clash with Burnley.
The Magpies will be looking for back-to-back wins after beating Huddersfield 2-0 on Saturday.
Another three points will move United seven points clear of the relegation zone with the side sitting 18th, Southampton, not playing until Wednesday.
This will continue to ease any fears of playing in the Championship next season with a noticeable improvement in performances in recent matches.
There was one key topic of conversation in today’s press conference with Benitez continuing to be linked with the current vacant Leicester City job.
The previous Foxes manager, Claude Puel was sacked yesterday morning following a home 4-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.
This has resulted in persistent rumours linking Benitez with the job and was expectantly asked about his thoughts on the matter.
Here’s what the gaffer had to say…
On the Leicester City job
When asked about the vacant position, Benitez was unsurprisingly reluctant to talk about these rumours:
“I think you know my answer. I’m really focused on the next game. I know we have to stay up and stay focused on that.
“I know the issue of my contract & this position means you have to ask but my focus is on Burnley. Fans will be happy if we win.”
On Miguel Almiron
Almiron received a lot of praise about his debut and the manager was equally as pleased with what he saw from the Paraguayan.
“Almiron did really well. We knew he could give us pace and energy and everything we were expecting from him he did.
“He has no problems with physicality. He is trying to keep his style. He is not scared & hopefully he will not get any bad tackles now.”
On the fans
St James’ Park was as loud as it has been for a long time on Saturday with a newly found optimism about the club.
The gaffer praised the fans and said that Almiron’s impact played a big part in the atmosphere.
“The fans was delighted with Almiron’s contribution and you could feel the crowd get excited.
“Maybe I was the most nervous person in the ground on Saturday because I knew how important the first goal was.
“But we did well and, in the end, the fans appreciated that.”
On morale and injuries
The optimism in the fans seems to be matched by the positivity in the squad after a decent run of games.
The manager also spoke about how the near fully-fit squad has given him good problems about his team selection.
“Morale is fine. Everybody is almost fit, we are winning, we play well, we create chance, but there is a problem for me because I have to make a decision about the matchday squad.
“But everyone is training well. Everyone are great professionals. Only Clark and Elliot are out.”
Newcastle face one of the in-form teams tomorrow in Burnley with Benitez aware of the difficulty of this game.
“Burnley are in form, they are doing well. They have confidence & they are very tough, physical team.
“We will try to play how we did at Turf Moor, but it’s a different kind of test. We have to see what we can do and try to win.”
On Sean Longstaff
The Magpies youngster has become one of their best players recently and Benitez is delighted with what he has seen.
“He was going well in training sessions and I told him he had to stay until January. He is doing really well & he has been really good.
“In an ideal world you want players coming from the Academy, keep getting better, & so now let’s not put pressure on him.”
On Salomon Rondon
The Geordie fans will be hoping that Rondon’s loan will become permanent in the summer having impressed up-front this season.
The gaffer also pointed out the importance of the Magpies number nine today:
“We knew what we were looking for. We knew him, we knew he had PL experience and we wanted this kind of striker.
“Salomon gives us mobility, he is strong & good in the air. He was desperate to come, so he is someone who has proved he can do a job for the team”