Where is the FA Cup on Newcastle United’s list of priorities this season? – Lee Ryder

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Rafa Benitez does not need to be reminded about what it would mean to the city if he delivered that elusive first major trophy since 1969.

But as we start to think about the FA Cup again ahead of the new year, the big question is, where does the competition lie on the club’s priorities?

And where should it lie on the club’s priorities?

Well, judging by Newcastle’s unwillingness to spend in the summer transfer window and the limited transfer budget to come in January, it seems like United chiefs have already decided where it lies on the priority list.

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For Benitez is already struggling to keep the limited squad he has fresh for Premier League games.

With crunch games at Stoke City and Swansea City either side of the FA Cup game with Luton Town, Benitez will be keen to keep his key men fit and firing to deliver Premier League points – especially if he doesn’t get funds to spend in the January window.

In the past managers like Chris Hughton, Alan Pardew and John Carver were encouraged internally to make changes for the FA Cup while some players saw the competition as the chance to be rested.

In fact, in recent years, Steve McClaren is one of the only United managers to field a strong team on FA Cup third round day, only for that day to end in defeat at Watford during a 1-0 reverse at Vicarage Road.

Last season, even the most enthusiastic Newcastle fan would have agreed that winning promotion to the Premier League HAD to be the priority, and there were few complaints when Benitez decided to hand some of the youngsters a chance in two third-round games against Birmingham City.

Rafa Benitez
Rafa Benitez

Back then the likes of Dan Barlaser, Stuart Findlay and Yasin Ben El-Mhanni were all used in the early cup games of the year and it paid off until the next round at Oxford United when a League One side outclassed the Magpies at the Kassam Stadium.

It wasn’t one of the high points of Benitez’s time in charge, and while he had to take the defeat on the chin, it preserved his squad for the promotion run-in that followed and overall it could be argued he was probably right to opt against risking injuries with his first team.

Although, that wasn’t much consolation at the time to the fans that made their way down to Oxford to see their side easily brushed aside.

Benitez has shown in recent games that he can shuffle the pack and put out a strong side though.

That was the case at West Bromwich Albion when he made five changes and it worked out positively as Newcastle picked up a point to end a run of defeats.

A quick glance down to the Under-23s shows that Benitez may look to give the likes of Barlaser, Luke Charman, Cal Roberts or Victor Fernandez their chance in the FA Cup this year.

But they will need to have some big senior figures around them if they are to avoid a defeat.

Luton are flying high in League Two and Newcastle can’t take this game lightly.

Although, if Newcastle are engulfed in a relegation battle by the time this game comes around, then Benitez’s selection process may not need to be explained to most fans.



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