Newcastle’s Rafa Benitez says players love seeing the huge crowds

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez

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Rafa Benitez says Newcastle United’s huge attendances this season have blown away the club’s players.

Benitez’s second-placed side will be backed by almost 6,000 supporters against Barnsley at Oakwell tonight.

The fans are amazing.

A crowd of 51,885 saw Newcastle beat Brentford 3-1 at St James’s Park at the weekend.

And the club’s 50,000-plus gates at home – and big away followings – have made an impression on the club’s summer signings.

Benitez is expecting a tough fixture against 11th-placed Barnsley, and he believes the club’s fans can make a difference.

“The fans are amazing,” said United manager Benitez.

“We have said that before, and say it through the season, but when you get a record number of fans going away, for us it’s crucial.

“It’s crucial for the players’ belief and for them to realise how big this club is and how important it is that we keep performing for them. If we keep doing well, it will only get better.”

Benitez is wary of Barnsley, who play a high-tempo game.

Only Newcastle and league leaders Norwich City – who play Fulham at Craven Cottage tonight – have scored more goals than Paul Heckingbottom’s side, who are without a win in their last five Championship games.

Benitez said: “For me, Barnsley is not a game where we look at say ‘it’s easy’.

“Far from it. In fact, the opposite. It’s a team that goes forward, score goals and play with a high intensity.

“It’s a very difficult game and we have to make sure that we pick the players who can play this game and concentrate and focus.

“We have to make sure we pick players who will play the way that we need them to play. These games are very dangerous.”

Benitez will again change a winning team, though he insists he won’t “rotate for the sake of rotating” at Oakwell.

Matt Ritchie, Mohamed Diame and Isaac Hayden are all pushing for recalls.

And Benitez said: “It’s not that I rotate for the sake of rotating.

“We are always analysing, and on Saturday, we looked and some players came from back from interntional breaks. They had been far away and worked hard. When the team is doing well, we don’t change too much.

“If we change, we have to make sure the player who comes in is right.”