Benitez bats away Chinese Super League speculation

Date published: Monday 27th February 2017 4:30

Rafael Benitez: Dismissed link
Rafael Benitez has dismissed reports linking him with a move to China.The Newcastle boss has been linked with two Chinese Super League clubs, but he insists there is nothing in the rumours.

“I was asking where it came from,” Benitez said. “I didn’t know. At the beginning of the season a lot of people were talking about Chinese clubs, but it was a surprise to me.”

Benitez was speaking at a press conference ahead of his side’s crunch clash with promotion rivals Brighton at the Amex Stadium on Tuesday night.

Saturday’s frustrating 2-2 home draw with lowly Bristol City allowed the Seagulls to reclaim top spot, where they are a point clear of second-placed Newcastle.

Former Toon boss Chris Hughton will be in the opposition dugout and Benitez said: “He is doing a good job and he has a very good team.

“The team has been in the play-offs three times in the last four years so that means they have experience, and they have the players and the squad to be there.”

Newcastle will be without striker Dwight Gayle due to a hamstring injury, with Benitez confirming: “He is still improving but not ready for this game.”

Brighton left-back Sebastien Pocognoli is fit despite coming off towards the end of Saturday’s 3-0 win over Reading with a groin problem.

Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce will check on the fitness of Conor Hourihane and Mile Jedinak ahead of their clash with Bristol City.

“I have to look at people fitness-wise due to playing Saturday and Tuesday,” Bruce told the club website.

“Just look at Mile Jedinak. He played on Saturday. But he’s been out for a month. He was treading water towards the end. I will look at the lads now physically.

“Conor got a dead leg in training on Friday but could still be available for Tuesday.”

Derby skipper Richard Keogh looks set to miss their trip to Blackburn – ending a run of 105 successive league starts stretching back to December 2014.

Manager Steve McClaren told Rams TV: “Rich is having a scan after getting a tweak in his calf at the weekend.

“We hope it isn’t too serious but the likelihood of him being available is that it will be too soon for him.

“Knowing Rich, he is a quick healer and he will be desperate to get back in.”

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