Rafa Benitez explains the complex friendly with Royal Antwerp


“The idea is for this to be competitive. The idea is for the players to know that they need to compete. We were looking for the right opponent, a team who could be not just a friendly whereby we score five goals and they score four, and everybody’s happy. No, that would have made no sense. We wanted to find a team who could compete, but after you never know and we will find out. The idea is that the mentality has to be right, and we hope to give minutes to players who have not been playing and give them 90 minutes if possible.

(picture: NUFC TV)

“If you were to come here having not played too many games and then you only play 45 minutes, then it is not ideal. Also, if you bring here a player who is playing and he continues playing but then you give him just 45 whereas the others get 90, they will say: ‘Look, I can play 90.’ Players, they want to play games. The only way for us to give more minutes to these players was to play with three 45-minute periods.

“At Inter Milan we took part in a tournament with Juventus, AC Milan, Inter, Roma - these teams are sometimes involved. You play three teams for three different 45-minute periods, and it is complicated because you have to make sure that you have players who play the first 45 minutes who have to then play the last 45 minutes. Sometimes you cannot do it, so you have to manage with three or four players and try to decide who can do what, so it will be difficult to manage for us too. The players who start, they will hopefully play a straight 90 minutes and that is good for them, but we will see.”

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