Rafa Benitez ready to field fringe men for Luton cup tie

Rafa Benitez. Picture by Frank Reid
Rafa Benitez. Picture by Frank Reid

Rafa Benitez is reluctant to risk any of his key players in Newcastle United’s FA Cup tie against Luton Town.

Benitez’s side take on the League Two leaders in a third-round tie at St James’s Park on Saturday.

The Newcastle boss made nine changes for the Magpies’ last FA Cup game – the 3-0 fourth-round defeat to Oxford United almost a year ago – and Benitez will again use his fringe players in the competition.

The tie is followed by an important home league game against Swansea City on January 13.

Newcastle go into the Luton game on the back of a positive run of Premier League results over the festive period, having climbed to 13th place after their 1-0 win over Stoke City on New Year’s Day.

However, Benitez – whose side were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by visitors Nottingham Forest in August – is approaching the FA Cup with caution.

Asked if the cup was a welcome distraction for him and his team, Benitez said: “Not really.

“We have two or three injuries, maybe they will need some time. We don’t have too many players.

“Playing two games in a few days, we needed to change players (against Stoke).

“To play more games is not ideal. OK, we have to do it and we will do it.”

Benitez is without Aleksandar Mitrovic (back), Florian Lejeune (foot) and Jesus Gamez (ankle).

A number of other players have been carrying knocks through the festive programme.

Meanwhile, Luton – who beat Lincoln City 4-2 on Monday – have been given a huge 7,853-ticket allocation for the game. They expect to sell all their tickets.

The Hatters are four points clear at the top of the League Two table.

Luton manager Nathan Jones took over at Kenilworth Road two years ago.

“It’s not a bad place to celebrate your second anniversary, going to St James’s Park and pitting your wits against Rafa,” said Jones.