Rafa Benitez surprised many when the former Real Madrid, Liverpool, and Napoli manager took the Toon job despite the serious possibility of relegation to the Championship. Even more were surprised when he agreed to stay on and build Newcastle back to the Premier League.
Now that the Magpies are back, the Spaniard has expected further support from owner Mike Ashley and the rest of the club executives, but so far that has not arrived, and it’s left the manager annoyed enough to speak publicly about his frustrations.
“We won the Championship and made a £30m profit,” Benitez said in his pre-match press conference ahead of Newcastle’s match against West Ham on Saturday. “I had a meeting with Mike and was expecting we could be in a better position than we are now. We are not. We will see if we can improve as much as we can this week. I will try to do my job.”
Those are ominous words from a manager who took a major step down from his previous positions when he accepted the job at Newcastle, and therefore expects big promises in return. The club has spent nearly $50 million this summer, but they have yet to bring in a player that has made a significant impact, and the club has lost its opening two matches in Premier League play.
Benitez seemed to give Newcastle management a soft ultimatum. “Normally, managers talk about projects saying they need four or five years. I’m not talking about that because you never know in football. When we came here, we knew there were some issues and we had to improve things. I am sure we have done that but we need to improve more.”
“My aim is to improve things so when I leave, whenever it is, I would like to be sure that the team and the club will be better.”
Don’t look now, but the Clarets have climbed into the Premier League top four.
Burnley found a way Stoke City late on Tuesday, picking up a 1-0 win at the Turf Moor behind Ashley Barnes‘ late finish.
[ MORE: Gremio reaches Club World Cup final, awaits Real Madrid or Al Jazira ]
The Clarets, who have now secured 31 points over their first 17 matches this season, leapfrogged Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham with the victory. However, all three sides will be in action on Wednesday.
Steven Defour nearly put Burnley ahead on 69 minutes, when the front man tested Stoke keeper Jack Butland — who had to make a sprawling save to his right.
While Stoke mustered up several quality chances, it was Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s blast in the first half that nearly found the top left corner.
Next up for Burnley will be a date against Brighton on Saturday, while Stoke travels to Huddersfield the same day.
One half of this year’s FIFA Club World Cup final was decided on Tuesday as Brazilian side Gremio topped Liga MX champions Pachuca.
Second-half substitute Everton proved to be the difference for the Brazilians, with the attacker scoring in extra time to lift Gremio.
[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]
Pachuca’s chances of completing a comeback were extinguished with 10 minutes remaining in extra time, as Víctor Guzman was sent off upon picking up his second yellow card of the semifinal.
Meanwhile, Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds captured fifth place in the tournament after narrowly topping Wydad Casablanca, 3-2.
Despite going behind early, Urawa responded almost immediately in the first half, before building its lead to 3-1 at the hour mark.
A late penalty kick from Reda Hajhouj gave Casablanca a glimmer of hope in the dying moments, however, the Moroccan-based club couldn’t find a way to equalize.
Gremio will await either La Liga giants Real Madrid or Al Jazira in the Club World Cup final, which will be played on Saturday. The loser of that match will take on Pachuca in the third-place game.
Below are the scores from Tuesday’s FIFA Club World Cup matches.
Gremio 1-0 Pachuca (after extra time)
Wydad Casablanca 2-3 Urawa Red Diamonds — Fifth-place match
Los Angeles FC selected five players in the MLS Expansion Draft, including Costa Rican national team star Marco Urena.
Whether they’ll make their way to the City of Angels is another story.
The first pick from general manager John Thorrington was goalkeeper Tyler Miller from Seattle Sounders.
[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]
Going next was Latif Blessing from Sporting KC, an electric attacker who netted thrice with an assist last season.
Next was Urena from San Jose and the Costa Rican national team, a huge addition, and then Columbus left back Jukka Raitala before closing up the draft with Raheem Edwards from Toronto FC.
LAFC has already announced the signings or acquisitions of Carlos Vela, Walker Zimmerman, Carlos Alvarez, Monday Etim, and Guillermo Vizcarra.
The club will also loan Omar Gaber from Basel and Rodrigo Pacheco from Lanus.
Chelsea visits the John Smith’s Stadium to face Huddersfield Town in one of three Premier League fixtures this chilly Tuesday in December (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
The Blues are now 14 points back of Manchester City, and three points clear of fifth place.
Meanwhile there are a pair of matches on NBC Sports Gold: Burnley looks to keep pace with its Top Four ambitions when it hosts struggling Stoke City, while in-form Crystal Palace seeks a home win that would move it out of the drop zone. In its way? Dangerous, attack-minded Watford.
Burnley vs. Stoke City — 2:45 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]
Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]
Crystal Palace vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]