Rafa Benitez Fires Warning to Captain Jamaal Lascelles as Crucial Christmas Period Approaches


Rafa Benitez has insisted that every Newcastle United player must fight to earn his place in the Spaniard’s side at St James’ Park – and captain Jamaal Lascelles is no exception.

The former Liverpool boss has sought to motivate his side by claiming that only those in form and hitting top level will be chosen to play, with the demands of any given match taking priority over the selection of star names.

Benitez has admitted that no player is guaranteed his place. As quoted by the ​Chronicle, the 58-year-old said: “I would like to see every player playing well but obviously sometimes when you have a bad game, it’s just to analyse how you played and what you can do.”

Club captain Lascelles has had a mixed start to the season on Tyneside. The 25-year-old returned from a month out on the side lines to help his side earn a draw away to ​Everton recently. However, a poor performance followed as ​Newcastle lost 2-1 to ​Wolves last weekend.

Benitez, though, has insisted that his captain will improve with time. “I think he has reacted really well this week,” the Spaniard added on Lascelles. “He was trying to pay attention to little things in training.

“Normally when you have players who know they have done little things wrong and know they are not playing at the level they are usually playing, they have to pay attention to little details that can give them the confidence back.

“I think we were all a little upset after the [Wolves] game, but we just have to be sure that we cannot make these kind of mistakes again, and that we get back to playing well like we have been.”

Aside from Lascelles, Newcastle’s strength in depth in their central defensive ranks has grown this season, with Federico Fernandez, Fabian Schar, Ciaran Clarkand Florian Lejeune all providing stiff competition for the Magpies’ captain.

Lascelles’s potential status as an automatic starter was posed to Benitez, to which the Spaniard responded: “No. Every game is different. The players, sometimes they did really well in some of the games, and sometimes they didn’t do as well in others.

“Some are suited to some games, and some others. So what I like to do is watch how they are playing, watch how they train, and then make a decision during the week. If I have all of them available, I have to make some decisions.

“That is not a big problem. What I say so many times is that, actually, it is good news for us. These kind of problems are good news for us. I don’t think [that the competition for places has had a negative impact on Lascelles]. Sometimes, if you make mistakes, maybe you lose confidence.

“But he is competitive, so this week he was training really well trying to be sure that he was ready for the next challenge. I think he is competitive. We have to realise we are still talking about a young player. A centre back, between 28 and 32 depending on the country, is when they can play at the best level because they have experience and still physically they are fine.

“We are asking for too much sometimes from a young player in a team that will be defending the majority of the time, so he will make one mistake and he will be exposed more times.”

Lascelles and Newcastle will be hoping to regain some consistency in their form as Benitez’s side travel to face ​Huddersfield in the Premier League on Saturday, with the Magpies currently 15th and just three points above the Terriers in the table.

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