Rafa Benitez puts Islam Slimani on standby as he vows to change a winning Newcastle team
Rafa Benitez is prepared to change a winning Newcastle United team '“ so those players that are playing for their futures get a final chance.
The club has won its last four Premier League games – with the same starting XI.
Benitez, however, could change his team for Monday night’s game against Everton at Goodison Park.
Striker Islam Slimani, on loan from Leicester City, is likely to be handed his first start between now and the end of the season.
“Now is maybe the time that some players need to prove themselves,” said United’s manager.
“So maybe I will make some changes to make sure that some players are given a chance to impress the staff and then think about their future.
“Some players are playing for their futures. Some of them will finish their contract, and others will finish their loans. We can talk about (Martin) Dubravka, Kenedy and Slimani.
“Whether they are doing well or not, we need to see, have an opinion on that, and maybe they want to extend their contracts, or go.
“We have to analyse every single case and then decide.”
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Benitez, however, says it won’t be easy to change a winning team.
“It is not easy for me now, because we’re winning,” he said. “I was not changing the team, because we are winning, so if I change now then people will say ‘oh, Rafa’s changing a winning team’.
“Yes, but I want to make sure we are doing the right things also for the future.”
Meanwhile, winger Christian Atsu will miss the Everton game with a knee injury.
“He has a knee problem,” said Benitez. “It’s just a little problem, and he’s had an injection, so we just have to be careful with him.
“It depends on his reaction as to whether he’ll play again this season. The plan is to keep him out of this game, see how he feels next week, and then see.
“If we have little problems, then we will try to protect the players if we can do it.
“We don’t want to take any risks with anyone when we don’t need to.”