Newcastle United have won only two league matches since October, but one thing that’s giving them hope of Premier League survival is young Chelsea loanee Kenedy, who joined in the final days of the January transfer window.
While Newcastle haven’t actually won either of their two games since, settling for 1-1 draws against both Burnley and Crystal Palace, Kenedy’s attacking flair and endeavor has not been lost on the fans or the manager. He was their Man of the Match in his debut, though he showed signs of fatigue against Palace. That’s only understandable given his lack of match fitness from the first half of the season and Magpies boss Rafa Benítez isn’t too worried about that.
“He’s fine. I know that some people did not like the substitution last weekend, but when Palace were attacking and attacking, the intensity was high. I thought it could be a solution then to bring on Atsu to help.
“But Kenedy is OK, he is doing well - but it is one thing to be ‘fit’, and another to be ‘match fit’. It depends on games to get that. He is getting better, he is doing well, and it’s a question of time as to when we will see the best of him. We have seen a lot of good things, but still he has to be consistent, he is a young player, he must stay calm and we should not put him under pressure.”
Newcastle would surely settle for yet another 1-1 draw today against Manchester United, as Kenedy gets an opportunity to face the manager who gave him his debut in England back in the season we shall not talk about at Stamford Bridge. Kenedy was in fact one of the very few bright spots of that Chelsea season, though it also started this trend of playing him as a left back or left wing-back instead of his more natural attacking wing positions. Fortunately, Benítez has stayed true to his word so far and has deployed the admittedly versatile 22-year-old in attack instead.
“He has been playing as a wing-back for Chelsea. He can play there. But I saw him playing for Fluminense as a right-winger and as a left-winger. For the Brazil Under-20s he was also playing both sides.
“He can play in different positions because he has the quality, the crossing ability and the finishing to do any of these positions. Hopefully he can give us even more in attack.”
-Rafa Benítez; source: Chronicle Live
No time like the big stage against Mourinho’s United to show just what he can do! With Chelsea not in action until Monday, this matchup of two former Chelsea managers from the opposite ends of the fondness spectrum could be a fun way to pass the time, especially if the home side can pull off the upset.