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Newcastle boss brushes off Sunderland mind games

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez has brushed aside Sam Allardyce's suggestion that Crystal Palace could roll over at St James' Park on Saturday.

Benitez is not interested in mind games. Credit: Reuters

The Sunderland manager, whose side currently lead the Magpies in the race for Premier League safety by a single point, said on Thursday that if he were a betting man, he would put his money on Newcastle to beat the Eagles as the Palace players would have been "on the pop" since reaching the FA Cup final.

However, Benitez refused to be drawn into a debate as he prepared for yet another must-win game.

He said: "I don't bet. Obviously I agree we have to win. In my experience, it's the players who make the difference, not the managers. I can prepare for the game, but to talk about mind games, I don't take too much notice."

However, the Spaniard did acknowledge that some of Alan Pardew's players may have the cup final at the back of their minds.

He said: "Everybody knows what it means to play in that final. When you are there, you have to be careful. I don't see any player saying 'I don't care about the final'. I am sure they will be thinking about it.

"It's normal when you're in the final. Players are thinking if they pick up an injury, they can't play, so it's in the back of their heads."

Benitez urges Newcastle players to rediscover passion

Benitez faces a tough task to keep Newcastle in the Premier League. Credit: PA

Rafael Benitez has challenged Newcastle to rediscover their "character and passion" or face slipping to Premier League relegation with a whimper.

Comical defending and a limp, frozen performance from Newcastle gifted Southampton an easy 3-1 league win at St Mary's on Saturday.

Shane Long, Graziano Pelle and Victor Wanyama struck all too easily for Southampton, consigning Newcastle to a sixth defeat in a seven-match winless run.

Manager Benitez implored Newcastle's fuming fans to back his beleaguered side ahead of Saturday's critical home clash with Swansea, demanding a victory to keep the survival fight alive.

"Character and passion, and positive play - that's the very least of what is expected every game, for 90 minutes," said Benitez.

"But it is clear that that was very much lacking in the first half.

"That's not a situation that we can have away from home, so we have to make changes to how we'll play away from home.

"Before that we'll have to prepare for the next home game, and we just hope we can keep the fans behind us.

"It's very clear that we can say nothing to our fans.

"They come here to see the team fighting and winning and we didn't do that in the first half. So you have to understand their feelings.

"But we'll need support from the fans, we need them behind us to drive us on, to get a result against Swansea."

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Benitez 'enthusiastic' and 'happy' about Real Madrid

Less than 24 hours after overseeing his final game in charge of Napoli, Rafael Benitez landed in Madrid on Monday morning.

Benitez is expected to take over at Real Madrid this week. Credit: PA

The 55 year old, whose two-year stint with Napoli ended with a 4-2 home defeat to Lazio on Sunday, is expected to be named as the new Real Madrid coach this week.

Madrid-born Benitez has been strongly linked with Real this summer, the club where he started his coaching career.

"I am enthusiastic and happy," Benitez said to the Spanish press upon his arrival in the capital. "Although there are things that still need to be discussed."

Real sacked coach Carlo Ancelotti last week following a trophy-less season.

Napoli deny Benitez will leave for Real Madrid

Rafa Benitez is favourite to be Real Madrid's new head coach. Credit: Serg Glovny/Zuma Press/PA

Napoli insist a hastily-scheduled press conference has not been organised to confirm the departure of head coach Rafael Benitez for Real Madrid.

The Serie A club have called a briefing with club president Aurelio De Laurentiis and head coach Benitez for Thursday afternoon, amid growing speculation the Spaniard will replace Carlo Ancelotti at Real.

A statement published on sscnapoli.it read: "The club wishes to state that tomorrow's press conference concerns only footballing matters related to Napoli and not the future of Benitez.

"Therefore, no questions pertaining to the future of the Azzurri coach will be accepted."

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Former Liverpool boss yet to decide on future

Could Rafa be heading back to the Premier League. Credit: PA

Napoli coach Rafa Benitez claims he has not received any offers from other clubs, despite being out of contract with the Serie A outfit after this season.

There is speculation the former Liverpool and Chelsea coach could return to the Premier League in the summer.

Benitez is attempting to guide Napoli to a top-three finish in Serie A and enter next year's Champions League.

Napoli are also in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia and take on Dinamo Moscow in Thursday's first leg of the Europa League round of 16.

When asked about his future, Benitez told the Italian press on Wednesday: "I have not decided yet.

"I'm happy here but as I've already said, I will speak in April.

"I have not received any offers. Right now my thoughts are on Napoli and on our next games."

Video: Benitez reveals plan leave to Chelsea

On Wednesday, Chelsea's interim manager Rafael Benitez revealed he will stand down at the end of the season.

Speaking after Chelsea's 2-0 win against Middlesbrough, Benitez said he was "disappointed" with some fans who he described as "wasting time" making negative banners instead of supporting the club.

He also revealed that he did not expect the word "interim" to be added to his title when he signed his contract.

You can follow coverage on of today's game on the ITV Sport website

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez to face fans at home

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez will face fans later today for the first time since he angrily criticised their lack of support earlier this week.

The club will be hosting West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.

After Wednesday's FA Cup win at Middlesbrough, Benitez said the decision to appoint him as 'interim manager' was "a mistake" and that fans are "wasting time" protesting against him.

Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez has confirmed he will leave the club at the end of the season. Credit: PA Wire

On Friday, Benitez said he has no problems with Chelsea's board, the club's owner Roman Abramovich or the players.

He added: "I would like to see a fantastic atmosphere supporting the team."

Benitez stands by explosive comments

Rafael Benitez has told the BBC that he will see out the season at Chelsea, but that he stands by his tirade against the club yesterday.

He told Football Focus that his relationship with club owner Roman Abramovich is still " very good."

Rafael Benitez has stood by his recent criticisms of the Chelsea team but said he will see out the season Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The Spaniard reiterated his problems with the fans saying, "we were winning yesterday [against Middlesbrough] and still they were singing - I think that will not do our team any favours."

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