Rafael Benitez not worried by Jonjo Shelvey absence

Date published: Saturday 24th December 2016 2:48

Jonjo Shelvey: Facing lengthy ban after FA charge
Rafael Benitez is confident Newcastle can cope without banned midfielder Jonjo Shelvey.

The 24-year-old, an influential figure in the Toon’s rise to the top of the Championship, has been suspended for five matches following his unsavoury confrontation with Wolves midfielder Romain Saiss.

Shelvey decided not to appeal against the FA misconduct charge, which also saw him fined £100,000 and ordered to attend a mandatory education course.

The ban will start immediately, kicking off with the Boxing Day game against Sheffield Wednesday, but Magpies manager Benitez says he has players who can fill the void.

“We know that we will not have him for the next five games and that’s it,” Benitez said at his pre-match press conference.

“How big a loss will it be? I will tell you after five matches – but we have enough options.

“Obviously it will be different, we can not hide this, but still we have some good players and we can manage.”

Wednesday are flying high in sixth after back-to-back home wins over South Yorkshire rivals Barnsley and Rotherham, but boss Carlos Carvalhal expects the biggest test of their promotion credentials at St James’ Park.

“We will be ready to fight, understanding it is probably the toughest game of the season but we have a team to discuss the three points,” he told the club website.

“We are Sheffield Wednesday, we have a strong brand, strong principles and we go to fight for the three points in all the games.”

Third-placed Reading host a Norwich side who have lost two of their last three games to slip to 10th.

Royals manager Jaap Stam is not taking the Canaries lightly, however, and told the club website: “It is going to be a tough game.

“They’ve got a good side and a lot of quality players that were with them in the Premier League last season that are still there.”

Aston Villa put their unbeaten home record on the line with a visit from Burton as Steve Bruce attempts to guide the midlanders towards the promotion race.

“When you mention the big clubs of our country, Villa has to be among them,” said Bruce at his pre-match press conference.

“Not many clubs would get 40-odd thousand against Burton Albion on Boxing Day when you’re 13th in the Championship.

Elsewhere Barnsley host Blackburn, Cardiff head to Brentford, Ipswich entertain Fulham, Bristol City travel to Wolves and relegation battlers Rotherham and Wigan meet at New York Stadium.

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