Newcastle V Crystal Palace at St James' Park : Match Preview

29 April 2016
Newcastle V Crystal Palace - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez brushes off Sam Allardyce's '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.

The Sunderland manager, whose side currently lead the Magpies in the race for Barclays Premier League safety by a single point, said 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."

Newcastle, who currently occupy 19th place in the table, have given themselves hope of avoiding the drop with a victory over Swansea and battling draws against Manchester City and Liverpool in their last three fixtures.

However, they still look likely to have to win all their remaining games - against Palace and Tottenham at home either side of a trip to relegated Aston Villa - if they are to stand any chance of staying up.

Newcastle will once again be without injured defenders Fabricio Coloccini and Daryl Janmaat with the former unlikely to play again this season.

Pardew has demanded Palace produce a strong finish to the Premier League season before they focus on winning the FA Cup.

Pardew returns to former club Newcastle for the first time since his departure in December 2014 - and despite the benefits involved in resting his key players before their date at Wembley Stadium, insists he has no intention of letting up.

He Pardew said: "I need to focus the team on the most important issue: Saturday's game, and the two (against Stoke and Southampton) to come after that.

"I need to make sure we're covering bases so the team are focused for Newcastle.

"Where we should finish and where we do will be determined in the next few days. There's a small margin between us and the teams above us up to 11th. We are trying to hunt those teams down.

"We want to finish comfortable and then look forward to the final."

Saturday's fixture also represents Yohan Cabaye's first at St James' Park since he left Newcastle for Paris St Germain in January 2014.

He was the Magpies' finest player until then, at which point their form began to decline and Newcastle fans' faith in Pardew reached a new low.

The 54-year-old said: "(Cabaye) showed the bigger the game the better he is (in Sunday's semi-final defeat of Watford).

"He rises to the occasion. I'm pretty sure that Newcastle's fans will give him a great reception because he was brilliant for us up there.

"Me going back to that club means nothing to those fans. They want to see their team playing with heart and spirit and winning. It's a tough ask trying to win there."

Palace will continue to monitor Wilfried Zaha's fitness in the hope he recovers from a leg injury in time to start Saturday's fixture, but beyond the young winger and long-term absentees Brede Hangeland, Paddy McCarthy and Marouane Chamakh, Pardew has a fully-fit squad from which to choose.

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