Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Lack of Progress off the Pitch Hurting Rafa

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Lack of Progress off the Pitch Hurting Rafa

Article excerpt

Byline: LEERYDER Analysing life in Black & White

NEWCASTLE United will park the bus at the Etihad Stadium this weekend, and while the tactic isn't popular with scores of fans, you have to wonder if Rafa Benitez has any choice against Pep Guardiola's side.

He doesn't have pace in abundance to get at City at every opportunity and his top scorer has mustered just four goals this season.

Oh, and without an extra layer of protection in front of his back four he is risking being punished heavily by an unforgiving City attack.

Benitez has spoken about the "short blanket" already this season and it couldn't be more appropriate.

He said: "When you have a short blanket, if you pull it to your face, your feet are cold, if you cover your feet, your top half is cold."

Guardiola can call on world-class talent in every position, while Benitez is making ends meet with players who struggled to beat sides like Ipswich Town and Birmingham City towards the end of last season.

Trips to the Etihad haven't exactly been fun for Newcastle fans in recent years either.

The United faithful have suffered some hammerings at this venue before including two 4-0s, a 6-1 and a 5-0 - and that was before Guardiola put his stamp on the Citizens. Benitez admitted earlier in the season he would love to be able to compete with managers like Guardiola and Jose Mourinho again on a level playing field someday.

Well, that day certainly isn't in the next game and Benitez has had to rally his troops again this week knowing that he is facing the prospect of naming an XI that featured heavily in the Championship last season.

In fairness to this group of players they have got their heads down and worked this season and this is a very different squad to the one that went down in 2009 and 2016.

Were Newcastle to get relegated this season it wouldn't be because players have sulked and not gave their all because they weren't up for the battle. …

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