Rafael Benitez: Newcastle boss says Aston Villa struggles show Championship is tough

Rafael Benitez and Steve Bruce
Rafael Benitez and Steve Bruce have previously come up against each other as managers in the Premier League

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez believes Aston Villa's struggles prove Championship life can be difficult for former Premier League clubs.

Both sides were relegated last season but Villa have struggled to find form, while Newcastle are top.

"They have proved it's a difficult division," Benitez told BBC Radio Newcastle.

"It is not easy to go down and go up first time. It is important to have everyone working together," he added.

Newcastle host Aston Villa on Monday night, with the two sides meeting at St James' Park for the first time out of the top flight since 1938.

"They know what they have to do in this division - some young players may not be ready for the Premier League but they can be good in this division," Benitez said.

"Teams who have been in the Championship a while only have to add two or three players per season to their squads. When teams are relegated they have to change half the squad, and it's difficult to settle down."

"You can understand how it can happen, statistics show it can happen."

A graphic showing how Premier League clubs perform in the next year in the Championship
The left column shows teams relegated from the Premier League in a particular season, with the right column showing how they fared in their first season in the Championship

Newcastle will be without Isaac Hayden for the match against Aston Villa with an ankle injury, which could keep him out for four weeks. But the Magpies could welcome back Vurnon Anita, who has returned to training.

Newcastle had Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle on the pitch together for the first time since Christmas in their 2-2 draw with Norwich on Tuesday.

"When they are together on the pitch it's important for the team. But we were winning without those two. We can win using different players. The main thing is the team," Benitez added.

"It was a Premier League fixture for a lot of years, it will have the feel of a big game."

"The stature of both clubs means it is an important game for everyone, and people will enjoy it."

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