RAFA GIVES BACKING TO JOSELU AND YEDLIN

DeAndre Yedlin challenges Watfrod's Richarlison.
DeAndre Yedlin challenges Watfrod's Richarlison.
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Rafa Benitez has leapt to the defence of Joselu and DeAndre Yedlin ahead of Newcastle United’s visit to The Hawthorns tonight.

Joselu – who has led the line since joining from Stoke City in August – has come under fire in recent weeks.

And defender Yedlin’s performance in the weekend’s 3-0 home defeat to Watford was highlighted on Match of the Day.

Marco Silva’s side attacked down United’s right-hand side, where Yedlin had Matt Ritchie in front of him.

Newcastle take on managerless West Brom looking to end a run of four successive Premier League defeats, which has left the club 14th in the table ahead of a tough run of December fixtures.

United manager Benitez called for unity ahead of his team’s game against West Brom.

“My message today is to remind a lot of people that we have what we have, we are where we are,” said Benitez.

“It could get worse, and I don’t want to be right, because I was right before when I said we would lose more games.

“I really don’t want to be right, but I knew last time that I could be right.

“We have the top six, and they can beat anyone, and the others can compete against anyone.

“How much have some of the teams below us spent? They are changing managers, why? Because something is wrong.

“What happens in the Premier League now is you have the top six and the (rest) where anyone can beat anyone.”

Benitez, unable to sign his top targets bar midfielder Mikel Merino, had to bring cheaper players to the club who he felt he could improve over the course of the season.

Striker Joselu cost £5million at a time when Newcastle’s rivals were spending tens of millions of pounds on strikers.

“In the past, when I came here, everyone was questioning the commitment of some players,” said Benitez.

“The last year in the Championship, everyone was saying ‘fantastic commitment’.

“You cannot expect a player who cost £5m to perform like a player who cost £80m, but Joselu’s doing well, because he’s doing a great job for the team.

“Then there’s Yedlin. He had a great game (against Watford). I was surprised at the criticism.

“But it wasn’t true. We have to help him. The players around him have to be closer, and we have to communicate better.

“To criticise our players is not fair, because our players are giving everything,” said Benitez.

“You can be better or worse, you can miss a chance or you can score an own goal, whatever.

“But if they give everything, me as a manager, I’m happy with that.

“The players are training well. We realise where we are. These players know the only way is to keep working.

“We have had to work with them and make them understand how we were strong and winning games, which is what we have to do now.

“We have to stick together and keep doing what we were doing when we were winning.

“The margins are so close. If you analyse the last games – against (Manchester) United we had half an hour when the team was really good.

“Against Watford, we had four chances in the first 30 minutes. We didn’t score and then we conceded and we lost a bit of control at the end.

“Still, we were doing what we had to do in the beginning, but we were making mistakes.”

Benitez added: “The fans appreciate that this group of players really care about the shirt and what they are doing.”