Rafael Benitez spoke with confidence assuring fans by the end of the season, the Geordies will be where they want to be.
The Magpies have lost two from two which has offered a reminder to how hard the Championship is, if any needed to be. But Benitez seems certain that his side will turn it round, and he and Newcastle fans will be hoping that their revival begins against Reading at St James’ Park.
The Toon boss only suggested there will be plenty of transfers activity in the weeks of the summer window, with incomings and outgoings. And the future of Moussa Sissoko is once again under heavy speculation after the midfielder will miss the Reading game with an ‘ankle injury’.
New signing Mohamed Diame, who made his debut on Saturday also picked up an ankle injury, ruling him out of Wednesday’s clash.
Benitez’ pre-match comments – “It was never going to be easy”
Following two straight defeats at the hands of Fulham and Huddersfield Town has sparked some somewhat, minor panic around Tyneside. However, in Benitez’ pre-match press conference, he continued to remain optimistic: “It is really bad in terms of results, but at the end of the season, we will be fine and where we want to be.
“This is just the start. We have to fix things and I am confident we can do well."
He added, “Newcastle is a strong club but there is a lot of strong clubs in the Championship. It was never going to be easy but we are working hard.”
And Benitez suggested the two opening defeats could actually be a positive for his squad: “We knew what we needed, now we’ve had confirmation of that. We will be back stronger soon.”
With three weeks of the transfers window still to go, the Spaniard was openly honest about his intentions in the market: “At the end of the window we will be stronger because we have good players coming."
He continued, "Clearly we are still searching for our best line-up. We know what we need & it's whether we can get who we want to sign."
After two defeats, Benitez seemed content in overseeing a short blip now rather than in the latter stages of the season as the 56-year-old suggested that he still doesn’t know his best starting 11: “If we need to change some players, we will do it to find the best understanding between players."
Past meetings against the Royals
Overall league record: (W4, D1, L3)
The side’s first league meeting come in 2006 as Reading competed their first Premier League season in the club’s history. But it was an unhappy visit to St James’ Park as a late Emre strike secured a 3-2 victory for the Magpies.
The most recent meeting’s occurred in 2012 and 2013. Despite Reading’s relegation from the top flight that year, the Royals took four points off the Geordies with a draw Berkshire and 2-1 win in the North East.
Benitez’ men have failed to win at the Madejski Stadium in the top flight. However, when the teams met in the Championship last time round, the Toon Army done the double over Reading. United ran out 3-0 winners on Tyneside in 2009 thanks to a hat-trick from Shola Ameobi before the return fixture was clinched in a 2-1 victory after a brace by Kevin Nolan.
Reading – adapting to the Jaap Stam era
Jaap Stam found success as a player after successful spells with the likes of Manchester United, AC Milan and Ajax beforing retiring in 2007 before finding a short role in management at FC Zwolle as interim manager in 2009.
The 44-year-old returned to Zwolle in 2011 for a two-year spell as their assistant ahead of the move to Ajax, where he spent three years at the club in assistant roles involving their first team and reserves.
The former centre-back then earned himself a call from the Royals to become their first team manager this summer as the Dutchman got off to a bright start in his new role after only suffering one defeat in pre-season.
And after an opening weekend win at home to Preston followed by a EFL Cup win over Plymouth, a defeat at the hands of Wolves on Saturday would have given Stam plenty of thought for improvement ahead of the trip to St James’ Park.
Likely starting XI - three changes
It is expected that the back four that started the Huddersfield game will also partner each other against Reading.
Jamaal Lascelles has suffered a poor start to the season. However, Benitez is almost certain to support his captain. Some have argued that Chancel Mbemba was the Magpies’ only attacking threat at the weekend, and he is likely to start despite being at fault for Huddersfield’s winner.
Benitez has told that he will look bring in new players this summer, and Paul Dummett’s position may come under threat. The 24-year-old has been woeful going forward, nevertheless, the left-back will regain his place due to having no other first-team left-backs at the club.
Due to the poor showing from Isaac Hayden, Benitez may opt to continue in exploring his squad by recalling Jack Colback back into the starting 11. Jonjo Shelvey performance has been questioned after he was brought in on the weekend to make forward passes yet only managed to complete one into the opposition area.
From most fans’ point of view, Benitez has no choice is starting with Matt Ritchie and Rolando Aarons in the wide areas. Vurnon Anita’s right wing showing has frustrated fans as they asked the question to why the makeshift right-back has been pushed so far forward. And of course, Ritchie was United’s best player at the weekend after coming on at half-time.
Benitez has begun the first two games with one upfront which brought little joy for the Spaniard. The call to bring in someone to fit in alongside Dwight Gayle may be the change that Newcastle need. The forward has looked very isolated on his own.