Rafa Benitez explains why he left out Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic

Aleksandar Mitrovic. Picture by Frank Reid
Aleksandar Mitrovic. Picture by Frank Reid

Aleksandar Mitrovic is back in the Newcastle United fold – thanks to an injury to Dwight Gayle.

Mitrovic hasn’t featured since serving a three-game ban for elbowing West Ham United’s Manuel Lanzini in late August.

However, the striker is set to return to the bench for this afternoon’s Premier League home game against Crystal Palace.

Defender Chancel Mbemba hasn’t played for a month either.

Asked about Mitrovic and Mbemba, United manager Benitez said: “When you do the list, you have to choose your 11 starters. Sometimes you have a doubt or two, and, after, you have to pick players for the bench.

“Then, if you have a problem with a striker, who will you take? At this time, it was Dwight Gayle.

What has happened for us in terms of strikers is that we have Dwight, now who is not available, so Mitrovic will be there. That was the position.

Rafa Benitez

“You have seven players (on the bench) – normally six are very clear, a full-back, a midfielder, a keeper, a striker, a winger.

“Then you have another one and you say ‘this one or this one?’.

“It depends how your squad is, how your players are.

“If you have a player with a knock or a little problem, you say ‘maybe I have to bring someone just in case’.

“What has happened for us, in terms of strikers, is that we have Dwight now, who’s not available, so Mitrovic will be there. That was the position.

“Chancel, we had (Florian) Lejeune coming back, so you have more centre-backs.

“We have full-backs who cam play on both sides – Manquillo can play on both sides, Jesus (Gamez) can play on both sides, so you say ‘why do we need another centre-back? We need a proper full-back’.

“It’s nothing special, it’s just that you have to pick your squad, your team and the players have to understand.”

Gayle was hampered by a calf problem after coming off the bench against Southampton last weekend.

Benitez said: “Gayle had a little problem with the calf – it’s not serious – but he’s not ready for this game.”