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Newcastle linked with targets as Benitez begins transfer quest

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Newcastle United’s players have canceled their Christmas party, as manager Rafa Benitez admits he’s working on January gifts for the St. James’ Park set.

The Magpies have one point from their last eight matches, and face Arsenal, West Ham, and Manchester City in the run-up to the New Year, closing off a run of five matches in 16 days with Brighton and Stoke.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City vs. Spurs ]

Benitez says he’s begun talks with managing director Lee Charnley about the January window. The team is expected to make moves whether Mike Ashley completes a reported sale of the team or not. From Sky Sports:

“At this time it is just to talk about ideas,” he said. “You might say ‘I would like to sign this player’ and someone will say ‘£40m’ – maybe it is not realistic.

“The main thing, we had this conversation, then we have to move forward quickly. I don’t know the details but at least we were talking about that. We have to progress and it is so obvious that we have to improve things.”

Newcastle has been linked with a number of notable names a few weeks from the start of the January market, including Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, prolific Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun, as well as Liverpool’s Danny Ings and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw.

Newcastle 0-1 Everton: Rooney wins it for the Toffees

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  • Wayne Rooney scores only goal of the game
  • Everton unbeaten in four PL games
  • Newcastle have lost 7 of last 8
  • Shelvey sent off late on

Everton beat Newcastle United 1-0 at St James’ Park on Wednesday as Sam Allardyce remains unbeaten since taking charge of the Toffees.

Wayne Rooney popped up with the only goal of the game (his fifth in his last four games in the PL) in the first half as Newcastle hit both posts but failed to really get going as Everton held on for all three points and Jonjo Shelvey was sent off in stoppage time.

With the win Everton are in 10th place on 22 points, while Newcastle are just one point above the relegation zone as their former boss Allardyce inflicted another defeat on Rafael Benitez’s men.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Cuco Martina brought down USMNT man DeAndre Yedlin on the edge of the box early on with Benitez asking for a penalty kick, but the foul was adjudged to be outside the box.

Everton went close as Martina whipped in a delightful cross but Dominic Calvert-Lewin couldn’t get on the end of it.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Newcastle then broke with Matt Ritchie smashing the post with a fine effort but Everton went ahead after a howler from their goalkeeper.

A cross from the right was headed towards goal by Aaron Lennon and Darlow made a real hash of his save with Rooney popping up to prod home and put Everton 1-0 up with his 15th goal against Newcastle in his career.

Mikel Merino hit the post from 30 yards out as Newcastle went close to an equalizer in the first half but Everton were good value for their lead at half time.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Newcastle fought back in the second half as Florin Lejuene’s header just missed Mo Diame at the back post but Everton always looked dangerous on the break.

The home side huffed and puffed but Big Sam sent on another center back in Phil Jagielka to see the game it. It worked a treat.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Late on Shelvey was sent off for a lunging tackle as the Magpies’ misery was complete.

Report: Newcastle sale closer after improved bid of $400 million

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The Geordie dream appears one giant step closer to reality after Amanda Staveley has reportedly made a significantly larger bid in her attempt to purchase Newcastle United from long-embattled owner Mike Ashley.

[ TIMELINE: Ashley puts club up for sale | Staveley’s first bid rejected ]

According to multiple reports out of the UK — the Telegraph offers the most information at this time — Staveley has increased her initial offer from $335 million to today’s $400-million figure which is expected to be enough to convince Ashley to accept and bring to an end his decade-long, rocky relationship with the Toon Army.

Ashley purchased the club for $177 million back in 2007 and has reportedly invested somewhere in the neighborhood of another $177 million, in the form of interest-free loans, during his stewardship. He stands to make a sizable profit in light of today’s reports, though his original asking price of $534 million is nowhere close to being met.

[ STREAM: Newcastle host Everton — Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET ]

The biggest question which remains — now that will he or won’t he sell? appears to have been answered — is how quickly the deal can be completed, thus allowing Staveley to back manager Rafa Benitez during the January transfer window. Once the two sides enter into deeper takeover talks and the process of transferring ownership from one to the other begins, a transfer embargo will be activated.

Benitez and Ashley traded verbal jabs over the club’s transfer dealings — or, lack thereof — in the summer, and the Spaniard has again this week insisted significant investment is needed in January, otherwise the Magpies could very well be relegated, once again. After a strong start to the season, Newcastle are winless in their last seven Premier League games (six losses) and have tumbled to 16th in the league table, now just two points clear of the relegation zone.

Benitez: If we can’t add in January, work gets harder

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Newcastle United has swung from the top half of the table to the fringes of the drop zone, something that hasn’t caught Rafa Benitez off guard.

The veteran manager has not lost sight of his August transfer window shortcomings. He hasn’t dwelled on it in the media, but Benitez is also very cognizant that his team has lacked depth at striker, out wide, and at left back.

[ MORE: Pep on post-derby celebrations ]

To boot, most of his additions — Mikel Merino, Christian Atsu, Javi Manquillo — haven’t been loaded with experience.

“Some games we are the youngest team in the Premier League. We have to learn quickly. This team is working very hard. Little things we have to improve and we will be stronger.”

“We know our job. Everyone has an opinion. It’s not rocket science – we need players in some positions. If we can, fine, if not, we will have to work harder.”

Newcastle isn’t far away, but it’s woefully short at left back (to the point where it’s best options have been displaced center back Chancel Mbemba and right back Manquillo), and Benitez doesn’t trust Aleksandar Mitrovic up top with Joselu not firing (though Championship star scorer Dwight Gayle may be coming around).

Additions are still needed, and perhaps Benitez is marginally better off that Newcastle didn’t continue overachieving as it did early days.

Newcastle United 2-3 Leicester City: An own goal divides them

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  • Joselu scores early
  • Mahrez levels, 20′
  • WATCH: First two goals
  • Gray, Gayle trade goals
  • Ayoze own goal the difference

An 87th minute own goal doomed the hosts as Leicester City’s fine form continued with a 3-2 win over Newcastle United at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

Riyad Mahrez and Demarai Gray scored after Leicester had gone down 1-0, and Leicester is on 23 points after the win.

Joselu and Dwight Gayle scored for Newcastle, which is now just two points clear of the drop zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Matt Ritchie won a free kick in the first minute with a darting dribble, and the dangerous midfielder lorded over a chance from the right. Ben Chilwell headed it out for a corner, and Ritchie’s offer from the right was cleared by Leicester.

Dwight Gayle led Newcastle in front with a well-timed run down the left complete with a cutback for Joselu. The Spaniard didn’t have much to do but finish: 1-0.

Wilfried Ndidi and Demarai Gray both speculated in the first 20 minutes, but neither found the Newcastle frame.

Mahrez scored a fantastic goal to make it 1-1 in the 20th minute, walking past Isaac Hayden and ripping a left-footed effort beyond Darlow’s grasp.

Jamie Vardy believed he’d done enough to win a penalty from DeAndre Yedlin, but Neil Swarbrick was unmoved by the 28th minute plea.

Leicester controlled the the match until a horrific giveaway allowed Jacob Murphy a chance from the catbird seat. Kasper Schmeichel poked the ball out for a corner, and Leicester dealt with the set piece.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Joselu headed a corner kick wide of the frame in the 52nd minute as Newcastle looked to retake control.

It was Leicester who’d next seize the lead, as Gray ripped a shot off Florian Lejeune‘s rear end and into the upper 90. 2-1 visitors, 60’.

Darlow stopped Mahrez’s 66th minute bid to expand Leicester’s lead.

Gayle made it 2-2 after a ping-ponging corner fell for him at the right. The 23-goal Championship man saw his right-footed rip deflect past Schmeichel.

The scorer nearly sent SJP into bedlam when he dragged a shot just wide of the far post in the 78th.

Substitute attacker Ayoze Perez put the ball in his own goal in a bid to break up a 4v2 from Leicester.