Monk hails ‘exceptional’ Newcastle but targets Leeds win

Rob McCarthy

Leeds boss Garry Monk accepts Newcastle are “an exceptional team” as they close in on a swift return to the Premier League, but is determined his play-off chasing side will head to St James’ Park with belief they can dent the promotion charge.

After losing at Sheffield Wednesday last weekend, Rafael Benitez’s men are now in second place, two points behind leaders Brighton, who travel to Wolves, and 10 clear of Huddersfield in third, although the Terriers still hold a match in hand.

Leeds are in fourth, with their own automatic promotion chances slim even if they were to pull off victory at Newcastle in Good Friday’s evening kick-off.

Monk, though, sees no reason why his side should not be capable of upsetting the Magpies in their own back yard.

“Newcastle are obviously one of the best sides in the league. Their objective at the start of the season was very clear, to win automatic promotion, and they are on course to do that,” Monk said, quoted on

“They are an exceptional team, have a very big and talented squad and they are where they are expected to be.

“We will go up with the same attitude as always. We have good confidence from the win over Preston and we want to prove what we are capable of in these last five games.

“When we are at our best we know we can beat anybody in this league. We know it will be very difficult to do that, but we go up there with that intention.”

Benitez, meanwhile, wants his players to remain focused on the job in hand rather than any talk of landing the title.

“We are where we are because we have done something right, and the priority is just to go up,” he said at a press conference.

“If we finish first, then all the better, but we just want to play as well as we can. We must win our games and then we see.”

Brighton boss Chris Hughton guided Newcastle to the 2010 Championship crown when he was in charge at St James’ Park, and warned his current side against taking anything for granted as the south coast club closes in on Premier League status for the first time.

“The only way we have to see it is to win as many games as we can out of these last five, and that starts with the first one (at Wolves) tomorrow,” Hughton told a press conference.

“We just have to make sure that we put it in our own hands as opposed to having to rely on other results, so that is the best way to approach it.”

Huddersfield, beaten at Nottingham Forest last weekend, will look to maintain their hopes of gatecrashing the top two when they host Preston.

North End are not yet out of the play-off hunt themselves, but need to make up some eight points on Sheffield Wednesday.

The Owls are at home to Cardiff while Norwich, who stuck seven past Reading last weekend, host a Fulham side aiming to stay in touch with the top six.

At the other end of the table, Forest host relegation-battlers Blackburn while Birmingham travel to bottom club Rotherham, who will be in League One next season.

Elsewhere, Brentford take on Derby, QPR are away to Bristol City and Burton host Ipswich in Friday’s other evening kick-off.