Philippe Montanier recalls meeting Rafael Benitez ahead of Nottingham Forest versus Newcastle United

Nottingham Forest manager Phillipe Montanier

Newcastle United manager Benitez may divide opinion amongst many, but he remains one of the most respected managers in the game.

Nottingham Forest manager Philippe Montanier has told The Chronicle that he has positive memories of his meeting with Newcastle United counterpart Rafael Benitez.

The Frenchman arrived at Forest in the summer armed with a very respectable CV, including taking Real Sociedad into the Champions League before guiding Rennes to solid, mid-table finishes in the French Ligue 1.

However, he is but a rookie compared to serial trophy winner Benitez, who has won titles with Napoli, Valencia and Chelsea while inspiring the most remarkable Champions League triumph in modern times during his spell at Liverpool.

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez during the press conference

And Montanier, who will renew Benitez’s acquaintance as Forest welcome table-topping Newcastle to the City Ground on Friday evening, admits that he was proud to get the chance to speak with one of the most respected managers in the game a few seasons back.

“I met [Benitez] three or four years ago during a managers’ conference in Spain,” Montanier told The Chronicle.

Nottingham Forest manager Philippe Montanier

“After the conference we spent a little time together. It is very important to have communication like that, with one of the top managers in Europe. It was a good memory for me.”

And the 52-year-old Montanier has a chance to prove to Benitez just how far he’s come when the sides meet in one of the weekend’s standout fixtures.

Nottingham Forest manager Phillipe Montanier

Newcastle are still be leading the way in the second tier despite their advantage over second placed Brighton being cut to just two points following last weekend’s home defeat to Blackburn Rovers.

However, a trip to seventeenth placed Forest is hardly the ideal opportunity to get back to winning ways, with the hosts' improving form suggesting that they could be the first side to consign Benitez to three consecutive defeats as Newcastle manager.

Register for NEWCASTLE UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch