1. ITV Report

Benitez focusing on football rather than takeover talk

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez is refusing to allow excitement at the prospect of a takeover cloud his judgement as he looks to kill Crystal Palace's recovery in its infancy.

Tyneside has been buzzing since Monday's announcement that owner Mike Ashley had placed the club on the market, and in the days since, several potential investors have joined a number who had already signed non-disclosure agreements in registering a formal interest.

However, despite speculation that Amanda Staveley is close to making a bid on behalf of PCP Capital Partners, Benitez is concentrating only Saturday's home clash with the Eagles, who finally opened their Premier League account with a shock win over Chelsea last weekend.

Amanda Staveley was in the stands to watch Newcastle draw 1-1 with Liverpool Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/PA Images

"You have to understand my position is very simple, clear: I am the manager, I try to concentrate on football. I obviously have some ideas, but what I have to do is make sure my players do what they have to do.

I know the fans will be excited. I know everything about the history, the comments - that doesn't change my opinion. My concentration has to be on the players and the preparation."

– Rafa Benitez, Newcastle United manager

Benitez was grilled about the takeover talk as he held his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon, but refused to be swayed.

He said: "It doesn't affect me in any way. I don't have much interest in what happens in the next two or three months. I am just focused on what we can do against Crystal Palace.

"Believe me, we are not talking about it, I didn't hear any player talking about that. Maybe they have been talking in the changing room, but not with me."

Benitez, however, is aware of the club's potential having agreed to stay on in the wake of relegation from the Premier League at the end of the 2015-16 campaign and then leading the team back into the top flight at the first attempt.

A solid start to life back in the big time - the Magpies currently sit in ninth place in the table - has made them an even more attractive proposition, and the Spaniard knows what he and his players can achieve on the pitch could have a significant bearing off it.

Rafa Benitez insists his players are only focussed on Crystal Palace Credit: PA

If I decided to stay, it was because the potential of the club, the city, it is massive. If we do well, it will be easier. You can attract people for the potential, but if you are doing well, it is even easier."

– Rafa Benitez, Newcastle United manager