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I went for the win against City, says Benitez

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Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez, pictured in August 2017, downplayed the fight between his players Jamaal Lascelles and Mohamed Diame, saying he had seen worse

LONDON, United Kingdom, Dec 28 – Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez explained his team selection after Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat to Manchester City at St James’ Park.

The Spaniard made five changes for the match, in which a single goal from Raheem Sterling gave City their 18th consecutive win, but insisted that it was not done with one eye on Saturday’s clash against Brighton & Hove Albion.

“It was not about resting players for Saturday,” Benitez said. “It was about trying to play the best players possible to try to get something from this game. We were trying to win this game.

“We cannot forgot we have a couple of games in a few games time against teams at the bottom of the table, but today the idea was to have players with pace to play counter-attack, and try to create something.

“We did that in the first half with Rolando [Aarons], and we had a couple of chances in the second half where we were very close.

“We were not thinking too much about [the goal difference], we were thinking about trying to get points, but if you lose it is better to lose 1-0 than 4-0.

“That was not the idea though. The idea was to try to get points and win if we could, but we knew that to win we would have to do everything perfect and they would have to have a bad day.”

The Magpies have now lost five of their last six league matches, and won just once in their last 11, leading Benitez to call for signings in the January transfer window.

“I think that this club still has great potential,” he added. “If we do the things that we have to do now in January and we stay in the Premier League, it’s one of the teams that has to be in the top eight.

“If you talk about the massive money that has been spent in football in these years, maybe it is not easy. But you never know. To improve teams like Newcastle, if you do the right things it is enough to be stronger and bigger and compete.

“If you spend £200m, £300m every year, obviously even if you make mistakes you have a good team, but without spending so much money, you can still improve and do well. That is my idea if we are capable to stay in the Premier League.”

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