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Sunday 17 December 2017

Promotion remains priority for Newcastle boss Benitez

Promotion to the Premier League is the only focus for Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez
Promotion to the Premier League is the only focus for Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez

Rafael Benitez will be content to lead Newcastle to promotion even if the Sky Bet Championship title eludes the Magpies.

The pragmatic Spaniard sends Newcastle into battle with Leeds at St James' Park on Friday evening having seen them slip into second place as a result of last Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, which came a day after new leaders Brighton won by the same score at QPR.

They remain 10 points clear of third-placed Huddersfield, who have a game in hand, but as he heads into a potentially decisive Easter weekend programme, Benitez is focussing only on one aim.

He said: "The priority was to go up and if we can do our job tomorrow, then I will look ahead and see where we are. But the priority was to go up, that's it."

Newcastle and Brighton, managed by former Magpies boss Chris Hughton, have been scrapping for top spot for much of the season, and fans of either club would inevitably be disappointed if they lost out.

However, asked how the Toon Army would feel if the club was pipped to the title, Benitez said: "I don't think they will be disappointed if we go up.

"As I said before if you win, then you will see where you are, but the main thing is to go up and that's it."

Winning back their Premier League status at the first attempt for the second time in seven years would represent a job well done by Newcastle, although Benitez knows even then there would be much hard work to be done and he is refusing to be distracted by what may lie ahead.

He said: "At the moment, the main thing is to make sure we do our job. There's plenty of room for improvement, but we'll see how we can get better in the summer. First we have to get the job done."

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