Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez wary of Chelsea FA Cup backlash

Rafa Benitez, manager of Newcastle United
Image: Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez is expecting to face a strong Chelsea side in the FA Cup

Rafael Benitez has warned his Newcastle players to expect a backlash from a wounded Chelsea side who are gunning for FA Cup glory after crashing out of the Carabao Cup.

The Magpies head to Stamford Bridge for a fourth-round tie on Sunday to face a team still smarting from their midweek Carabao Cup semi-final exit at the hands of Arsenal.

With Antonio Conte's men 15 points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester City and having been handed a Champions League showdown with Barcelona in the last 16, the FA Cup could represent their best chance of success this season, and Benitez is fully expecting a backlash.

He said: "It's a different approach for them. I'm sure that they will consider this the most important competition for them right now.

"Obviously after, they will play another competition, but the league is very difficult for them and they are out of the Carabao Cup, so I think it will be a very strong side in front of us."

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Asked if the FA Cup rather than the league would be Chelsea's main focus over what remains of the season, the Newcastle boss replied: "One hundred per cent."

It will be the second time the sides have met in south London this season, with the Magpies having shocked their hosts by taking an early lead through Dwight Gayle's strike on December 2 only to eventually go down 3-1.

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Benitez is under few illusions as to the difficulty of the task ahead of his team, but is hoping they can create a few problems themselves.

He said: "In football, if you are a little bit lucky, you can beat anyone, but you have to do everything right and they have to make mistakes. Hopefully that will be the case."

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