Benitez determined to juggle cup run and league survival

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez has promised to be as bold as he dares as he targets a place in the FA Cup fifth round and Premier League survival.

The Magpies have endured a miserable record in the domestic cups under owner Mike Ashley, having never made it past the fourth round since the year before he took the club over.

For a club which has won the FA Cup on six occasions, but not since 1955, it is a damning record, but one Benitez is keen to address when Watford head for St James’ Park on Saturday three days before reigning champions Manchester City roll into town for a league fixture.

Asked about balancing the competing demands, the Spaniard said: “It’s so important. With all the money involved in the Premier League, everyone knows that if you want to grow, if you want to be better, you have to guarantee this money for the next year.

“To stay in the Premier League is really, really important, but at this stage, if we can go through, we will try to do it.

“We’re playing at home. Will it be the strongest team in terms of match-fitness? Maybe not. Will it be a team, in my opinion, that can go through or can win the game? Yes, I think so.”

Newcastle have taken four points from a possible six from the Hornets this season, but their need remains great with last weekend’s 3-0 home win over Cardiff having lifted them out of the bottom three, but only just.

Those league improvements combined with the 4-2 extra-time victory over Sky Bet Championship side Blackburn in the third round has established a fledgling momentum upon which Benitez hopes to build.

He said: “Scoring seven goals in these games is massive for the confidence of the players. You can score goals and then you can control games and you can play well, so hopefully we can keep this momentum.

“But every game is different. We know Watford are a good team, but if we do well with the fans behind the team, I think we have a chance to go through.

“Also, it’s the FA Cup and everyone wants to go through, so we will try to do it.”

Benitez could welcome back defender Federico Fernandez and winger Kenedy after injury, but Paul Dummett, Jonjo Shelvey, Mohamed Diame and Ki Sung-yueng are all out.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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