Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce’s remarks about local rivals Newcastle United having an easy job when they face Crystal Palace on Saturday will have no effect on the Magpies’ players, manager Rafael Benitez said on Friday.
Allardyce believes Palace will not try as hard as they should to beat Newcastle this weekend as they will be celebrating reaching the FA Cup final and will not be eager to put their bodies on the line for fear of picking up injuries.
Newcastle are second-bottom in the table, one point behind fellow relegation candidates Sunderland with three matches left, and Benitez was keen to play down Allardyce’s “mind games”.
“In my experience it is the players who make the difference, not the managers. During the game I can talk with my players and prepare the game before,” Benitez told reporters on Friday.
“Talking about mind games and press conferences won’t change too much. I don’t bet but obviously I agree that we have to win. At this stage of the season every team wants to win, they know how important it is for everyone,” he said.
“We have tough games until the end of the season and so do Sunderland, and Norwich (City) too.”
Benitez, however, admitted Palace’s focus on the FA Cup final could play a part in Saturday’s game at St James’ Park.
“Everybody knows what it means to be in a final. When you are there, obviously you have to be careful. I don’t see any players thinking: ‘Oh I don’t care about the final’. I am sure they will be thinking about it,” the former Real Madrid manager said. “But we have to think about ourselves and having to win. We have our fans behind us and we have to give everything.”