Rafa Benitez has been speaking to the press today ahead of Sunday’s trip to Crystal Palace, with the Spaniard admitting that BOTH Islam Slimani and Martin Dubravka could be available – also praising Mo Diame’s form, discussing Mitrovic’s exit and much more.
Here’s a round up of some of the key points and key quotes from Rafa’s chat with the press this afternoon:
Rafa on Slimani & his availability this weekend:
“We were looking for something different. Obviously, in attack, we needed to change something, to be sure we could increase competition & have different solutions. He knows the Premier League is a strong lad & has a very good scoring record in Portugal.”
“Slimani is working with the physios, and has been on the pitch today, but had a little problem with his thigh and now it’s just see how he feels and tomorrow we will decide if he can be there or not.”
“He’s trying to push and be ready.”
Sounds positive given we were expecting him to be out for 2 weeks from what was being thrown around on deadline day.
Rafa on Dubravka & his availability this weekend:
“To find a keeper is January that’s playing, and bring him here, is not easy because nobody wants to sell the top scorer or the keeper! He’s good in terms of playing with his feet, he’s agile, he has personality and very good English. A lot of positives.”
“Dubravka is available (for Palace) because he has been training, but he has not been here long. All the keepers will have the chance to compete.”
Has Rafa finally found a ball playing keeper for NUFC? As Rafa says, it sounds like there’s plenty positives surrounding his game and character.
Rafa on Mitrovic’s deadline day exit:
“The situation of Mitrović was strange, Anderlecht were saying ‘yes’, then ‘no’. We were surprised. He needs to play before the World Cup. He is a nice lad. It all went the right way in the end.”
He’s a ‘nice lad’ Rafa says, despite talk that the two don’t see eye to eye. Maybe he just doesn’t think he’s all that good at football after all?!
Rafa on Mo Diame’s form, Joselu’s misses & Kenedy’s debut:
DIAME – “For 2 or 3 games he has done really well. He always trains hard, he is clever & he understands quickly what I want him to do in games. He is an important player for us. Competition for places is important, & Diame gives us that”
JOSELU – “He is working so hard for the team. It is crucial for a striker when he misses a penalty. He was down, but my message to him is to carry on & be sure that in the future he is ready”
KENEDY – “We knew about his quality. But at the same time we know he is a young player. He has to carry on with the same attitude & confidence. If he does that, he will give us something different – just like Dubravka & Slimani”
Well earned praise for Diame and Kenedy after their standout displays in the 1-1 draw with Burnley.
Rafa on deadline day deals:
“We know deadline day is always busy. It is wrong that we are playing games on that day. We did some good business, brought players in & got some out. It is positive – if the new players perform on the pitch”
Rafa on the Burnley game and Sunday’s trip to Palace:
“Everybody was upset after the Burnley game because we had enough chances to win. But we didn’t do it, now we have another massive game against Crystal Palace. They are a team in the bottom half like us & we have to get the details right to win this game.”
“They (Palace) are a good team with very good players. It is a difficult stadium & a difficult place to get points. But we must have confidence we can do it. It is very close at the bottom & for us it is another challenge to survive.”
Rafa on the banner on Wednesday night:
“Everybody is expecting me to criticise the club, but I am trying to do my best for the team & the club. All I can do is concentrate on what happens on the pitch. What am I thinking is, ‘The best for NUFC is for the team to win”
Key points from Rafa's presser:
– Dubravka available, Slimani touch and go
– Happy for Mitro, needs games before World Cup
– Praises Diame for good form
– Won't criticise the club, what's best for #nufc is that we win
– Selhurst Park a hard pitch to get points, but we will see
— NUFC 360 (@NUFC360) February 2, 2018
For all his comments from today’s presser, here’s a round up from the Chronicle:
— Lee Ryder (@lee_ryder) February 2, 2018