Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez has rejected suggestions that Ghana midfielder Christian Atsu did not start in their 1-0 defeat to Manchester City on Wednesday due to fixtures ahead of New Year’s Day.
Benitez made five changes to the squad that won 3-2 away against West Ham United on Saturday with the Atsu, Mikel Merino and Henri Saivet making way for Rolando Aarons, Jonjo Shelvey and Jacob Murphy.
Atsu came on for Rolando on 71st minute against City, with Newcastle being unable to overturn Raheem Sterling's first-half strike, as the hosts record four defeats in their last five games.
“No, [I didn't bench Atsu because of those games.] It was to bring the best players possible for getting something in this game. We cannot forget we have a couple of games in the next few days," Benitez.
“The idea was to have players with pace and play on the counter-attack and then try to create something, which we did in the first half with Rolando and the second half a couple of chances.
"We were very close. We’re not resting anyone. I was trying to win this game with the players I thought were the best,” he added.