Rafael Benitez says Newcastle must maintain a togetherness for the remainder of the Premier League season after a summer of uncertainty at the club.
Newcastle opened their league campaign with a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham last week, but will look to make amends when travelling to Cardiff City in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off, live on Sky Sports Premier League.
Cardiff vs Newcastle
August 18, 2018, 11:30am
This focus on football follows a pre-season where transfers and Benitez’s own future dominated talk on Tyneside, and the Spaniard has told Sky Sports he is eager to focus on improving the squad he has, which saw seven additions over the summer.
Asked if he was calmer now the transfer window had closed, Benitez replied: “That is very clear. The key for us is to stick together and stay together and be sure that we have this mentality until the end of the season.
“As soon as the transfer window finished, I knew I could not change anything in terms of adding some players, and then I have to try and bring the best from my players.
“Does that mean I’m happy with everything that was going on in the summer? No. But can I change what happened? No. So I have to try and change what I can have an influence on – which is the future, tomorrow and every training session with my players to ensure they are a little bit better every day.”
After narrowly losing to Tottenham at home, Cardiff pose the next challenge for Benitez’s side.
The two sides last met in the Sky Bet Championship two seasons ago, with Newcastle victorious in both fixtures.
Benitez is wary of the threat Cardiff carry, which he admits is different to that of a top-six side.
“We talk about the top six. The teams at the top are so strong, you approach them in one way. For the rest of the teams, and Cardiff is one of them, it is totally different,” Benitez added.
“These games, you know you can win or lose, but you also know these games are more physical.
“Mentally you have to be ready for that. It’s not that you will play against a team that will pass the ball with 70 per cent of possession. You will play against a team that is physically strong, compete for every single ball and are dangerous from set-pieces. It’s a different challenge.”
A trio of new recruits – Fabian Schar, Ki Sung-yueng and Federico Fernandez – are yet to feature for Newcastle, though forwards Salomon Rondon and Yoshinori Muto did come off the bench in defeat to Tottenham.
Rondon will be hoping to displace Joselu or Ayoze Perez in Saturday’s starting line-up, and Benitez talked up the striker’s strengths following his loan move from West Brom.
“We knew he is strong, but at the same time, people say he’s not clinical, and we know he has to score more goals, but he is giving us something that we didn’t have,” Benitez said.
“He has some mobility, he can hold the ball and challenge with the strong defenders. It’s something we didn’t have last year, and we can use it.
“We had Mitro [Aleksandar Mitrovic], but Mitro is a different type of player. I think Rondon has more mobility. Hopefully Mitro will score a lot of goals, but hopefully Rondon will score even more.”