Jaap Stam says his Reading team can’t catch Newcastle in the Championship – as it’s now become a three-horse race.
League leaders Brighton are two points ahead of second-placed Newcastle.
In-form Leeds are third in the division, and fourth-placed Reading are nine points adrift of Benitez’s side.
Newcastle and Reading meet at the Madejski Stadium on March 7, but Stam does not believe his team can catch the Magpies.
“It’s difficult to get them,” said Stam, whose side was beaten 4-1 at St James’s Park early in the season.
“Brighton have been up there in the past couple of seasons, and have been working on their team in that time in getting players in and playing in a certain way.
“Newcastle got relegated, spent a lot of money to get quality players in, and you see with a good coach (Benitez) if you do it well, then it’s very hard for the other teams who don’t have the money to get other players to get close to them.
"We are fourth in the league, but we are not thinking about trying to beat them in the sense of ending up first or second.”
Brazilian midfielder Gabriel, 23, has emerged as a potential transfer target for Benitez. Reports in Spain claim that Newcastle are interested in signing Gabriel on loan from Leganes.