Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez will focus only on Leeds clash

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

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Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez has banned talk of points totals and promotion from the St James’s Park dressing-room.

Instead, the Spaniard says the players have to keep their focus firmly on the task ahead - making sure they keep their run of eight wins on the bounce going at Elland Road on Sunday.

United face a potentially tricky trip to in-form Leeds.

A sell-out and the Sky cameras add to the pressure of the encounter.

And while some Magpies’ fans thoughts have began to wander to promotion title-winning parties, a better points tally than 2009-10 and even beating Reading’s 106 point Football League record, Benitez will not allow his players to lose focus.

When asked whether he thought United could break the Royals’ Championship record, Benitez, whose side are three points clear at the top of the second tier, said: “No I am sure it will be very, very difficult.

“You know our idea is to approach it one game at a time. Every game coming up is the most important one. That is it.”

While some have criticised the level of competition Newcastle have faced this season since relegation, Benitez has been impressed by the quality in the Championship.

“It is good,” said the United boss. “Everybody thinks it is long ball, second ball football. This is not the way it is.

“It is quite interesting for a manager because you have to adapt to a number of styles of football.”

Newcastle lost the first two games of the season - to Fulham and Huddersfield - but have since gone to take the division by storm, racking up 12 wins in the 14 fixtures since.

Benitez admits it took his players a little bit of time to adapt to life at this level.

He said: “We have to understand the style of the Championship.

“When we play at home you want to play fluid football with the ball on the floor. Away you have to defend high balls and set pieces.

“The team is learning it is growing, because the results are good.

“At the beginning it was not nice. We felt we could do better. We did not deserve to lose both games but we had to manage it.

“We had to keep sending the same message to the players and eventually things improved.”

Meanwhile, the manager has admitted that he believes top-scorer Dwight Gayle could be a future England international.

When asked about the 26-year-old’s England chances, Benitez said: “Yeah. I think he is an interesting player. He has a lot of good things.

“As a striker you have to score. He is doing that. He works hard to improve. I can see him getting better.”