Newcastle United evening headlines with Rafa Benitez interview and Granit Xhaka latest

Newcastle United evening headlines with Rafa Benitez interview and Granit Xhaka latest





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Former Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez has given an in-depth interview on his career to date.

Elsewhere, Arsenal manager Unai Emery is set to hold talks with reported Magpies’ target Granit Xhaka.

Here are your Newcastle United headlines for Tuesday, November 19:

Benitez interview

Rafa Benitez may be thousands of miles away in China but walk into any UK newsagent in the next month and you are likely to find the former Newcastle United manager’s portrait staring back at you.

Newcastle United fans hold up a flag featuring Rafa Benitez

The 59-year-old is FourFourTwo magazine’s cover star for their December issue, dubbed a managers special, and nine pages are devoted to Benitez in the main spread as he discusses life in China at Dalian Yifang and his career to date in a wide-ranging interview.

While home on the Wirral, Benitez spoke to the world’s biggest football magazine about everything from the legacy he is looking to leave at Dalian to the conversation he really had with Cristiano Ronaldo about free-kicks.

Emery to hold talks with Xhaka

Unai Emery is set to hold talks with Granit Xhaka when the Arsenal midfielder returns from international duty as Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce continues to monitor his situation.

Xhaka has not played for the Gunners since an angry confrontation with the club’s fans after being substituted in the 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace on October 27.

Having stripped Xhaka of the captaincy, Emery has already spoken to club chiefs about whether the midfielder should be sold in January but has stopped short of saying he has played his last game for the club.

Bruce is an admirer of the Switzerland international and while the Newcastle head coach recognises the January market is a difficult one to do business in, occasionally an unexpected opportunity emerges.

 

Training ground breakthrough

Steve Bruce believes Newcastle United can ’cause a problem for any team’ from set-pieces after the Magpies hurt West Ham and Bournemouth from corners and free-kicks.

Newcastle United's Ciaran Clark celebrates scoring his sides first goal of the game with teammates during the Premiership match at The London Stadium, London
Newcastle United’s Ciaran Clark celebrates scoring his sides first goal of the game with teammates during the Premiership match at The London Stadium, London

Bruce’s assistants, Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence, have worked on a number of set play routines on the training ground in recent weeks and those rehearsed drills have paid off for the Magpies.

Given how defenders account for 64% of Newcastle’s league goals this season, Bruce, a goalscoring centre-back in his day, has certainly been pleased with how his side are hurting teams from set plays.

 

End of Decade series – the Europa League campaign

There are 75 seconds left on the clock. Eight months’ work is in the balance at a febrile St James’ Park as Moussa Sissoko digs the ball from underneath his feet and tees up Yohan Cabaye.

Newcastle’s metronome looks up and plays the sort of crisp, instinctive long-range pass that is his speciality. It gets United back on the front foot and Hatem Ben Arfa – the most mercurial of their forwards – back on the ball. He advances on Benfica’s young Paraguayan midfielder Lorenzo Melgarejo – pushed back to stem the black and white tide – turning him with a wonderful sleight of foot before drawing back his left boot.

Hatem Ben Arfa drives at the Benfica defence
Hatem Ben Arfa drives at the Benfica defence

Newcastle are one goal away from the semi-finals of the Europa League: it is a Sliding Doors moment in a Sliding Doors season. If the ball dips a few yards under the crossbar, momentum swings one way. Instead the pendulum swings another. Two minutes later, Benfica score.

It is, and will probably remain for the foreseeable future, the closest Newcastle have come to silverware in the Mike Ashley era. But few would have imagined quite how profoundly that season – and that moment – would change the course of the club forever.

Benitez to West Ham?

Rafa Benitez could be offered a return to the Premier League by West Ham United.

The Mirror claim West Ham will make their move for the former Newcastle boss if they lose patience with Manuel Pellegrini.

The pressure is growing on the Chilean at the London Stadium with the Hammers without a win in any of their last seven matches in all competitions.

Former Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez
Former Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez

West Ham sit 16th in the Premier League table as a result and the board expected a challenge for the top six rather than a battle to avoid relegation, given the money they spent in the summer transfer market.

Benitez is currently in charge of Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang, having signed a lucrative contract with them after leaving Newcastle in the summer.

However, his aim in the future is to return to the Premier League as his family lives on Merseyside and the report claims he he would ‘listen with interest’ if West Ham come calling for him.