PNE boss gets Real ahead of Toon test

Newcastle United's Mohamed Diame celebrates scoring his side's second goal against PNE with teammate Aleksandar Mitrovic
Newcastle United's Mohamed Diame celebrates scoring his side's second goal against PNE with teammate Aleksandar Mitrovic
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During the press conference ahead of Preston North End’s clash with Newcastle United, Simon Grayson briefly allowed his mind to wander to thoughts of the Bernabeu Stadium.

The discussion between the PNE boss and Press had moved on to Rafa Benitez who will be patrolling the away technical area at Deepdale on Saturday.

Less than a year ago, the Magpies manager was head coach at Real Madrid.

Moving to the present day, Benitez is knee-deep in the unrelenting slog that is the Championship, attempting to guide Newcastle back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

“Hopefully in about 12 months, someone in the Championship will be in charge of Real Madrid,” said Grayson – his tongue firmly stuck in cheek.

“The chances of that are very slim I hasten to add!”

Benitez very much got the better of Grayson on Tuesday night as United hammered North End 6-0 in the fourth round of the League Cup.

They meet again at the weekend in the league and Grayson’s men have the home advantage this time.

It is no surprise that the visitors come to Deepdale as league leaders.

The side which started in midweek on Tyneside was not necessarily their strongest.

Grayson said: “A lot of the Newcastle players who played the other night and in recent weeks, were in the team which turned over Tottenham 5-1 on the final day of last season in the Premier League.

“They are on a fantastic run at the moment and so they should be.

“Rafa has got a remit to get them out of this division at the first opportunity.

“Budget wise, Newcastle are miles above a lot club but that is just a figure.

“It brings you good players but Aston Villa have a big budget, Brighton have and so do Norwich.

“In the past few weeks, we have got positive results against them.

“If that is to happen this weekend, we need to be at our best and make sure we leave everything on the pitch.”

Grayson expects United to have their attacking heads on at Deepdale, although maybe not to the extent seen during the week.

“At home, Newcastle are very expansive, they get a lot of players forward because their crowd demand that,” said the North End manager.

“On Tuesday, us going down to 10 men made it a lot easier for them, it made space for them to play in.

“When we watched them at Barnsley the other week, they were a little bit less forward thinking but still had players to hurt them.

“Rafa understands the game of football, he knows what is required to win games.

“He’s got a group of players who understand this league, they are not just tippy-tappy and know how to mix it.

“They have pace and power so we have to make sure we match that and at the same time try and impose our own game on them.”

Newcastle’s team showed seven changes against North End on Tuesday evening as Benitez rotated the Magpies squad.

The side is likely to have a slightly different look for part two of the double header.

Aleksander Mitrovic, who was scored twice in midweek, could miss out on a start at Deepdale.

Newcastle have the option of bringing back top scorer Dwight Gayle to replace the Serbian front man – Gayle has netted 11 league goals.