Rafa Benitez considers Aston Villa to be Championship contenders
By Claire Corkery
Last Updated: 23/09/16 6:48pm
Rafael Benitez has warned Newcastle they face a tough test against Aston Villa when they travel to Villa Park on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.
Villa have made a difficult start to life in the Championship, having been relegated from the Premier League in May with Newcastle and Norwich, and currently sit 18th in the table.
However Newcastle boss Benitez believes that Roberto Di Matteo's men still have the capability to earn promotion this season due to the stature of the club.
"If you analyse what they have, they're a big club - a massive club - with a great manager and great players, and they're spending money, so everybody was expecting that they'd be at the top of the table," he said.
"But it's a long, long race for everyone. The main thing for me, is that they're a massive club with very good players and manager.
"I said when we played against Derby that they could be up there, and with (Villa) it's more or less the same. But you have to give credit to the other teams at the top of the table now, because they are doing well.
"In one month, everything can change, so we have to keep doing our job, and we have to be sure that we are at the top of the table."
Newcastle have won five of their opening eight league games and currently lie in third place, four points behind early leaders Huddersfield.
But Benitez is keen for his side to become more consistent to maintain their early challenge for promotion.
"I said before that we need consistency, and I have the same feeling," he explained. "One game doesn't change anything; maybe the perception from outside, but from inside, we carry on doing the same things. We know that it's a long race, and we have to keep working hard and try to analyse what we do wrong and change quickly.
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"One bad game and one good game means that we know which is the right way, and we have to try to keep going the same way.
"You can see a lot of good players, good managers and big clubs. The Championship is one of the strongest leagues in the world, so when you analyse you see the Spanish league, Serie A, the Bundesliga, but the the Championship is fifth or sixth in terms of money and people."