PNE are doing well '“ Benitez

Facing a Championship and EFL Cup double header is nothing new for Newcastle United this season.
Newcastle's Matt RichieNewcastle's Matt Richie
Newcastle's Matt Richie

The Magpies lock horns with Preston twice in five days, the cup clash at St James’ Park followed by the league meeting at Deepdale on Saturday.

So the meeting on Tyneside could be regarded as something of a phoney war ahead of the battle for three points at the weekend.

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That said, the winners in the North East will progress to the quarter-final stage of the competition which is a big incentive.

Last month, Newcastle had a league and cup double header with Wolves.

On the Saturday, Wolves went to St James’ Park and won 2-0 in the league.

They returned four days later, Newcastle turning the tables on them and winning 2-0 to set up PNE’s visit.

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This fourth-round tie is a meeting of two teams who are very much in form.

The Lilywhites head north – there are not many times you can say that about an away match – unbeaten in seven matches.

Newcastle have won five games on the bounce and are unbeaten in seven.

Their latest victory came over Ipswich on Saturday, two goals from Ayoze Perez and a Matt Ritchie strike delivering a 3-0 win.

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In recent years, the Toon have tended to see cup games as low priority but things seems different this season.

Spanish front man Perez said: “We want to keep moving forward in the cup.

“We must think about the next game because it will be tough, both games will but we are ready for them.”

Magpies boss Rafa Benitez is looking forward to the PNE clash and wants his side to carry their league form into the cup.

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Benitez said: “It will be tough because we know that Preston North End are doing well.

“So we have to be sure that players continue competing and when they come in they do well.

“It is really important to keep the confidence high. But the only way is by working hard because the only way you will get more chances is if you work for it and play well.

“You will get more chances to keep winning. We know that every game will be difficult and have to be sure that the next one will be very tough and we have to be ready.

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“When you are top of the table and you are doing well, you have to be careful and make sure that you don’t have over-confidence or complacency.”

Benitez regularly rotates his squad and will makes changes to face Preston.

The ex-Real Madrid head coach said: “Sometimes you have a manager that has a good squad but they try to play the same players all the time – 13 or 14 players – and then little by little you lose the other players.

“We know keeping 25 to 27 players happy is impossible but, as much as we can, we must keep them all thinking that they could play and they could perform and they could give something.”