Rafael Benitez praises reaction of dropped players, hints at team selection for Liverpool clash

St James Park

The Newcastle manager has been encouraged by the response of stars such as Georginio Wijnaldum and Jonjo Shelvey.

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez has told reporters, as quoted by the Chronicle, that he has been pleased with the response of stars such as Jonjo Shelvey and Georginio Wijnaldum after being dropped.

Benitez replaced Shelvey in the team and as captain with midfielder Moussa Sissoko for the 3-0 win over Swansea City on Saturday, and the Frenchman responded by scoring his first goal of the season to put the Magpies 2-0 up late on.

Former Liverpool and Swansea City man was then an unused substitute in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City in midweek after Sissoko continued as skipper, and he was joined on the bench by Wijnaldum with the Dutchman having been in less than impressive form of late.

Benitez insisted that Sissoko has been deserving of a starting place and the captaincy, but stressed he was pleased with the reactions of the players after being taken out of his starting XI.

He said, as quoted by the Chronicle: "I want to be fair and I was talking with Jonjo and Moussa and I think they both realise that they are important for the team. Moussa is on the pitch as the captain, he was working very hard before to be the captain and was much better as a captain because he scored the goal and has even more confidence.

"I'm really pleased for him and really pleased with the reaction of Jonjo that he is helping the team when he is not playing. Competition between players is really important. Gini and Jonjo's reactions have been good. But it is positive for the team. [Vurnon] Anita and [Cheick] Tiote have been examples. Like [Vladimir] Smicer at Liverpool, these players not playing much have to be ready to contribute later.

"Normally you train the day after [a match], you see that we have picked up some knocks and injuries and everybody is a little bit tired, but they are fine so now maybe it is easier to say you will not change any players. We have to decide - at the moment I think the majority of [Tuesday's team] will be on the pitch."

Newcastle will be desperate to continue their recent resurgence at Anfield on Saturday, as they look to close the remaining two-point gap between themselves and safety.

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