Benitez’ Insight On How He Prepares For Cup Games

It’s been a policy at Newcastle for far too long that owner Mike Ashley put the priority on the league games so that we could stay in the Premier League and pick up all that money.

Given we have dropped into the Championship twice during his 9 years reign it doesn’t seem to have worked out too well.

In those days of the very recent past Mike ran Newcastle purely for money and the bank balance was all that mattered – the balance was very good – it’s just that our team was hopeless and without ambition.

nigel pearson and john carver

Leicester manager Nigel Pearson with John Carver in 2015

In the past managers have still argued the cup games are important and have then gone out and played very weak sides and we have been beaten in the very early rounds.

Once such case was a year last January when then manager John Carver talked passionately about how important cup games were to the club and the fact that Newcastle had a great history in the FA Cup – we’ve won it 6 times.

John stated categorically that he would start his strongest side at Leicester City following the 3-3 home draw against Burnley in the previous game.

He then shocked us all one day later by fielding a side full of youngsters and reserves at the King Power Stadium and made a full 9 changes from the side that started the previous game.

We lost 1-0 at Leicester City and only Jak Alnwick and Manu Riviere kept their place for that 3rd round FA Cup tie.

At the time Leicester were rock bottom of the table with only 14 points and 3 wins from 20 games.

That’s an example of how the manager did not really have any choice but to field weakened sides in the cup games – whatever they said before the games.

That’s not so with world-class manager Rafa Benitez who has said he wants to win trophies (what???) and the best chance we have of doing that is to win the League Cup or the FA Cup.

Rafa has said today how he prepares for cup games and it’s simply exactly the way he prepares for other games – he picks a team that can win the game and it’s a strong one.

This is what Rafa has said today:

“We try to put the strongest team out for each game every time,” “If I pick different players for the cup, it is not because I don’t consider the cup to be important.”

“It is just that I see the need to change things for that particular game. “You might have one player who is level 10, and one who is level seven.”

“But maybe this player who is at level seven, in this particular game, he can give you eight or nine, and the player who is at level 10, maybe he does not have the motivation.”

“Or he is a little bit tired, so perhaps he might only be able to give you level six.”

“You have to make sure you have the right players for the right game.”

“If you have a mix of players, with the right match fitness and where one or two have to prove themselves, maybe that is the right team?”

“Then if you do well and win, the squad will be stronger. “If you lose, people will say, ‘He is only concentrating on the league’.”

“But you have to try.”

That last line is a very good one.

Rafa will pick a strong side when we entertain Preston in the 4th round of the EFL Cup on Tuesday night 25th October and try to win the game.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.