Rafa Benitez says Newcastle United WILL take the EFL Cup seriously – even though promotion is his No 1 priority.
Benitez’s side take on Wolverhampton Wanderers tonight in the third round of the competition.
Up to last season, the club prioritised the league over the domestic cups. But Benitez, despite United’s overwhelming priority being promotion back to the Premier League, feels his team, beaten 2-0 in the Championship by Wolves on Saturday, can fight on more than one front given the depth he has in his squad.
“For me, two games a week is not a problem,” said Benitez, who is expected to make five or six changes to his team.
“It’s something you have to manage, and you do it. I have experience of it at different levels in different competitions, but I am used to it.
“The cup competitions are a chance to win something. We know the reality is that this is not easy, but we still have to approach the game with the idea that we can win it.
“We will select a team that can win the game, and if you keep winning, you will be closer and you maybe then have to analyse the games slightly differently.
“It’s not easy (to win) or go to a final, especially with the level of the teams in the Premier League.
“But it’s a good opportunity, and if you are in the competition, you have to try.”
Benitez is aware of the club’s previous policy towards the cups. Owner Mike Ashley signalled a change to United’s attitude to them last year, tbough the club did not fare any better in them during Steve McClaren’s ill-fated tenure.
“I’ve heard about (the controversy), but it doesn’t change my approach,” said Benitez, a League Cup finalist with former club Liverpool.
“I try to win every game, so if I put a team on the pitch on Tuesday it’s beause I think they can win the game. Five or six changes, whatever, it will be a team that I think we can win the game.
“In my first year at Liverpool I got through to the final of the League Cup with the kids.
“We beat Spurs, and then I changed approach for the later rounds. We were winning in the final against Chelsea on 79 minutes, but we lost.
“Then the next year we lost to Burnley with the same players who had got us through those rounds in the League Cup.
“If you have those players in the squad, it makes no sense to have them but not use them.
“It is a balance. You have to manage the squad and ensure you have a good enough team to progress.
“The way that we trained on Sunday and Monday, we trained with players who will maybe play. We do not have a different group and different training for the players who didn’t play last week – they train the same.”