Benitez: Newcastle ambitious but realistic

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Rafael Benitez will refuse to allow expectation to get in the way of realism as he attempts to turn around Newcastle’s faltering start to the season.

The Spaniard has attracted criticism for his methods in the way he set up his team for what proved to be narrow Premier League defeats by Tottenham and Chelsea, but he is adamant he will not risk the club’s top-flight status by trying to turn it into something it is not.

As he prepared his players for an intensely difficult trip to reigning champions Manchester City on Saturday, he said: “You have to have ambition, but you have to be realistic.

“The best way for us to get results and to achieve what we want to achieve – and the main thing is to stay in the Premier League at the moment – is to be realistic and manage expectations.

“I can come here and say, ‘Oh, we will attack and play three strikers’ and everybody will be happy and the fans will say fantastic, and afterwards you can lose 6-0.

“We have to be realistic and manage expectations, and that is the best way for us as a football club to achieve what we want to achieve, and that is to get enough points to stay in the Premier League.”

Benitez, who guided his promoted side to a 10th-place finish last season,was once again left deflated by a transfer window which failed to meet his expectations, and he knows repeating last term’s feat will be tough.

He said: “This year will be even more difficult because Wolves and Fulham have spent a lot of money, not just this year, but also in the past, so they have very good players.

“Last year, you had Brighton, Huddersfield and Newcastle United not spending too much. Now you have two teams who have been promoted spending a lot of money.

“You see the table now and look at Cardiff and Huddersfield – we are around this league. Does that mean we are not ambitious? We are really ambitious. But we are realistic and we have experience.”

Benitez will welcome skipper Jamaal Lascelles back to the squad after injury confident that there will be no hangover from his training ground bust-up with midfielder Matt Ritchie.

He said: “You want competitive professionals – we have competitive professionals and I think it’s very positive.”

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