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Rafa Benitez keen to take advantage of short Liverpool ‘blanket’ as Newcastle boss identifies defensive fragility

Rafael Benitez will send Newcastle into battle with former club Liverpool hoping to take advantage of their ‘short blanket’.

The 57-year-old Spaniard enjoyed six years at the Anfield helm and won four trophies, including the Champions League, before his departure.

He is now engaged in a very different project at St James’ Park, having dragged the Magpies back into the Premier League, but still has a soft spot for his first English club.

Benitez admits he is very wary of the attacking prowess available to opposite number Jurgen Klopp, but is keeping his fingers crossed that Liverpool’s proactive approach may expose their defensive frailties when they head to Tyneside on Sunday.

He said: ‘The reality is that because they are so offensive, they have sometimes problems in defence.

‘I have talked in the past about the short blanket – if you cover your head, your feet are cold; if you cover your feet, your head is cold. Sometimes when you attack too much, you are exposed in defence and to find the balance is the key to have chances to win titles.

‘I think they are working on that and still I think they will be very dangerous attacking even if they make some mistakes in defence.’

Benitez is still regarded as a hero on Merseyside for what the club achieved during his tenure, and he is currently building a similar relationship on Tyneside.

However, he insists there will be no divided loyalties this weekend.

He said: ‘It’s a special game for me. It will be emotional because I had so many years, so many good memories. Still my family lives in Liverpool, so it’s my home.

‘I am feeling at home here, but the family is there. I have a lot of positive relationships with the fans, so I have very good memories and it will be very emotional.

‘But at the same time, we’ll try our best and we will try to win.’

Benitez sees parallels between the two clubs and cities in which they reside, but he admits to one common problem.

He said: ‘The fans are very passionate and they follow the team they support the team even when things are wrong, so they are very similar.

‘The cities are also cities of people who work very hard and they know what it means to work very hard. There is massive support for the team, big stadiums with all the fans behind singing all the time, so they are very similar.

‘But the accent is hard for me, the Scouse accent and the Geordie accent. That’s very similar too.’

 

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