Rafa explained his team selection after the game, and it’s always tricky when you have 4 games in 9 days and two in the last three games.
Players will be tired and prone to pick up injuries.
Rafa elected to play Ayoze Perez and Christian Atsu up front together, and they did quite well with both Joselu and Gayle on the bench.
Rafa says he knew Atsu could play in that position because he knew him before he came to Newcastle.
It all worked well today, but the primary element in the win was the determination and work-rate of our players.
And that came after what was a disappointing display at home in the 0-0 draw against Brighton.
Mark Hughes meets Rafa Benitez – before the kick-off
But they turned things around today to their credit.
This is what Rafa said in the Chronicle after the game:
“We started really well this season then we had a bad run and lost confidence, but still the team was working hard.”
“It is one thing for me as a manager saying the players are working and don’t give up, but you could see it today.”
“It was an example of a team working hard.” “Stoke worked so hard and it was difficult for us.”
“It was really good. The way that the players were working on the pitch and trying to do everything was really pleasing.”
“It was difficult for us. The team selection was tough because the players were tired after Brighton.”
“We had to mix it a little bit and it worked quite well.”
“I knew that Atsu can play in this position and Ayo has clever movement.”
“The understanding was good between both (Atsu and Perez).”
“The rest of the team helped with good passes and after they defended all together, that was the key.”
“We needed to cope with Stoke’s pressure. They put in crosses and we did well.”
“We had two or three counter-attacks that could have finished the game.”
We now have 22 points out of our 22 games, and we need 6 wins in the last 16 games to reach the (hopeful) safety of 40 points.