Rafa Benitez says it’s “not easy to understand” how Sunderland have suffered a second successive relegation.
The Championship club was relegated last weekend after suffering a home defeat to Burton Albion.
For any team that has been relegated, it’s bad for the city and the atmosphere. I have sympathy for that, but I will not say too much.Rafa Benitez
Sunderland had been expected by many observers to mount a promotion challenge in the division following last season’s relegation from the Premier League.
However, the club spent much of the season in the relegation zone.
Asked if he had sympathy for counterpart Chris Coleman, Newcastle United manager Benitez said: “Any manager, when you have been up here and you have been down there, when they have problems, you have sympathy.”
Benitez was in the dugout for a Tyne-Wear derby the season before last.
Aleksandar Mitrovic scored in a 1-1 draw at St James’s Park just over two years ago.
It could be some time before the two rivals meet again in the league.
Asked if he wanted to see Sunderland to come back up, Benitez said: “For me, it’s not fair to talk about that.
“For any team that has been relegated, it’s bad for the city and the atmosphere.
“I have sympathy for that, but I will not say too much.
“It’s not easy to understand how they have gone from the Championship to League One.”
Meanwhile, caretaker manager Darren Moore has refused to second-guess West Broms fate this weekend.
Only a victory at Newcastle this afternoon will keep alive their extremely slim hopes of Premier League survival – anything else will see them go down.
Moore said: “We can’t preempt what happens this week – we’ll focus on a good team performance and the continuation of the results we’ve been getting in the last few weeks.
“We can’t get drawn into ‘what ifs’. We’re going up there for a difficult game and not focusing on other things around us.
“We’re planning to play a very good team on their patch.”