Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rafa May Taste FA Cup Glory Again, but for Now Must Face a Cold Reality; THE PREVIEW: Newcastle V Luton 3pm, St James' Park

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rafa May Taste FA Cup Glory Again, but for Now Must Face a Cold Reality; THE PREVIEW: Newcastle V Luton 3pm, St James' Park

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Waugh

RAFA Benitez insists he does want to win the FA Cup with Newcastle United one day but maintains that he must be "realistic" this season and ensure the Magpies remain in the Premier League.

The Spaniard stresses he will play a "strong team" against League Two Luton Town in the third-round tie at St James' Park today, but warned the "massive problems" newlypromoted United face in their battle for survival will dictate how seriously he takes the cup this term.

Newcastle have never progressed past the fourth round during Mike Ashley's near-11-year ownership of the club and, though Benitez is targeting a victory over Luton, he accepts that he cannot prioritise the cup competition over the league.

It is far removed from the vision he initially painted for the club's future when he first joined the Magpies, and also even once he decided to stay at St James' Park following relegation.

Back then Benitez cited the club's "potential" and his desire to lift trophies on Tyneside as his motivation for opting to stay in the North East.

But, given Newcastle's lack of investment, in the short term Benitez knows he must ensure United maintain their top-flight status - and then hope he is afforded the opportunity to target the cups in the future. "I can be romantic but it doesn't change anything. Will I play a weak team? No, I will play a strong team. That's it, it's what I can do," Benitez said ahead of the clash with the League Two leaders.

"I told the players: 'Listen, we have to win and we want to be sure that we go through.' That's it. After that, you can see the players on the pitch and how it's going on and I will try to do my best from the bench to help the team.

"If we do well, fine, we will go to another game and see what happens. But I can't guarantee: 'Yeah, we will go and I want to do this and that.' "No, the first thing is to win your games when you have problems in the Premier League.

"You have to win your games and be sure you can attract more players and bring more players because you will stay in the Premier League.

"I want to see Newcastle United in the Premier League, stable, and that means that then you can go and try to win cups or whatever. But the first thing is to stay up."

Premier League survival is worth more than PS100 million to Newcastle, who have found themselves at a financial disadvantage to some of their top-flight rivals this term following their season in the Championship.

And Benitez believes money is the primary reason why cup competitions have become of secondary importance to many top-flight sides.

"Yes," Benitez replied when it was put to him that economics has relegated the importance of the FA Cup.

"I remember when I was at Liverpool, we had to win the league and now at any top side, some of them it's just to stay in the top four. …

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