Last Updated: 14/01/19 5:13pm
Ahead of Newcastle’s replay with Blackburn, Rafael Benitez has defended his policy to not risk their Premier League status by chasing FA Cup glory.
The Magpies boss was criticised by the club’s fans for fielding a weakened lineup when his side were held 1-1 at home by the Sky Bet Championship club in the third round.
Newcastle, who will travel to Ewood Park on Tuesday, slipped into the Premier League’s bottom three at the weekend after losing 2-1 at Chelsea. But Benitez insists the cup is not his priority.
“We can talk about ‘Oh the cups’, but a lot of teams went out of the FA Cup. Why?” Benitez said.
“Why are all the managers that were making decisions, and their teams [which] were having problems, out?
“Cardiff, Fulham, nearly Southampton, why [do] you see these teams out? Because the Premier League is massive. You have £130m guaranteed if you are there. So everyone is trying to manage the situation. Also, you have to be realistic.
“Who has a chance, a realistic chance? Teams in the middle of the table can have a go because they are safe. The other teams, you have to manage it really carefully.”
Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray believes his side are capable of matching Newcastle’s level ahead of their replay in front of the home support.
“We are playing against a Premier League side and I think the team know how tough it is going to be,” he told The Chronicle.
“I don’t think we have suffered from a lack of confidence, even through the tough period over Christmas when we were playing some of the top sides.
“Particularly at home we have got to have a level of belief that we can go and ask questions of them and put them on the back foot.”
Charlie Mulgrew and Derrick Williams both trained on Monday after missing Blackburn’s win over Millwall and will be assessed ahead of the game. Corry Evans did not train and is unlikely to feature.
Richie Smallwood returns from suspension.
Freddie Woodman, Javier Manquillo, Jamie Sterry and Jacob Murphy are among those likely to return for the game against Tony Mowbray’s men.
Benitez confirmed that Mo Diame (hip), Paul Dummett (hamstring) and Jonjo Shelvey will definitely miss out, but Kenedy could feature after missing the weekend defeat to his parent club Chelsea.
- Blackburn have won just two of their 12 FA Cup matches against Newcastle (D4 L6). However, both of those victories have come at home, winning 4-1 in the third round in 1927/28 and 1-0 in the fifth round in 1992/93.
- Blackburn are unbeaten in their last three games against Newcastle in all competitions (W2 D1) – the Magpies last went longer without a victory against Blackburn in all competitions between May 2007 and February 2011 (P7 W0 D1 L6).
- Newcastle have been taken to a replay in the third round of the FA Cup for the second time in the last three seasons, progressing past Birmingham in 2016/17.
- Blackburn have lost their last three FA Cup ties against Premier League opponents, since beating Stoke 4-1 in the fifth round in 2014/15.