Swansea boss Francesco Guidolin prepares to renew battle with Rafael Benitez again admitting that he is not surprised by Newcastle’s relegation plight.
Guidolin crossed swords with Benitez in Italy when he was at Udinese and the former Liverpool and Chelsea manager was in charge of Inter and Napoli.
Benitez had the edge in the three games with one victory and two draws, but it is the Spaniard who finds himself in the trickier position now.
Whereas Swansea all but secured their Barclays Premier League status last weekend by beating Chelsea to reach the cherished 40-point mark, Newcastle are six points from safety and in real danger of the drop with Benitez struggling to turn things around.
Newcastle have yet to win in Benitez’s four games in charge – one draw and three defeats – and his appointment following Steve McClaren’s sacking has not had the desired effect on Tyneside.
But veteran Swansea head coach Guidolin said: “I have seen many things in my job over 41 years and nothing could surprise me any more.
“Newcastle are a big club and they have good players.
“I do not know what has happened there, but it is not a surprise because football is difficult.
“But I know Rafa and I consider him a good manager.
“I hope for him that Newcastle stay up, but Saturday is an important match for us too and I hope to see my team play like we did last weekend.”
Swansea’s trip north has added spice as it pits them against their former England midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who criticised his old club after joining Newcastle for £12million in January.
Shelvey had lost his first-team place at the Liberty Stadium by the time of his departure, and he later said he felt “forced out” of the club and that “it would be Swansea’s loss in the end”.
The league table suggests that has not been the case and, while Shelvey left Swansea the week before Guidolin arrived, the Italian suggested that the 24-year-old had possibly made a mistake in joining Newcastle.
“I don’t know Shelvey and why he left, but I can say it is difficult in the January window for players to choose the best option,” said Guidolin.
“I think his choice was to play at a big club, but it’s not easy when the season is already started.
“Sometimes you make the right choice, sometimes not. It depends (what happens).”
Guidolin says he has continued to set targets and does not feel that his players will take it easy now safety has almost been secured.
“It’s important to have targets in our lives and to improve,” said Guidolin.
“It is good to have 40 points, but it is not enough for me and my players.
“We hope to go past 42 points (Swansea’s lowest Premier League total in the 2013-14 season) which is our next target and improve from there.”