Rafael Benitez firmly believes last season’s heroes Martin Dubravka and Kenedy can shine in a second fight for Premier League survival at Newcastle.
Keeper Dubravka and midfielder Kenedy arrived at St James’ Park in January last year and played key roles in the club’s surge into 10th place by the end of the campaign.
However, Dubravka, who completed a permanent switch from Sparta Prague during the summer, allowed Son Heung-min’s shot through him as Tottenham snatched victory at Wembley last weekend.
As for Kenedy, back at St James’ on a season-long loan deal, he has been a shadow of the player witnessed during his first spell.
Nevertheless, Benitez remains confident both men will contribute over the remaining 13 games, starting at Wolves on Monday evening.
Asked if he has had to sit down with Dubravka, who has been largely excellent during his time on Tyneside to date, Benitez said: “No. I was talking with him, but I don’t need to sit down with him and talk too much about that.
“He’s a keeper and, like a defender, they know if they make a mistake, everybody will talk about that.
“But he’s okay. He’s a good professional, he’s focused, he’s training really well and I trust him 100 per cent.”
Dubravka was also caught in no man’s land by Pedro’s lob as the Magpies lost 2-1 at Chelsea last month, but asked if he is under any pressure, Benitez’s response was unequivocal as he said: “No.”
Winger Kenedy, who thrilled the Toon Army with his fleet-footed displays during the second half of last season, has struggled to reproduce that form this time around with events off the pitch playing their part.
However, Benitez has been happy with his efforts in training and is convinced he will return to his best.
He said: “Everybody could see his potential, so this year, he has to reach his level again and he’s working trying to do that. We will see if we can give him his chance.
“Each year is different. At the beginning, he was taking some time to settle down here again – they had another baby – so it was taking some time and now he has to start again.
“He has the potential, we have seen that, so it is not someone telling you. We have seen here how good he is, and he has to go back to his level.”
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