Rafa Benitez has insisted that there is no rift between himself and Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles.
The 24-year-old defender was left out of the side that lost 2-1 to Chelsea on Sunday. Sportsmail revealed Lascelles had taken issue with the decision to play him on the right of the back three.
He is thought to have voiced his disapproval at the manager’s decision to play three at the back for Sunday’s visit of Chelsea.
Captain Jamaal Lascelles sat out Newcastle’s 2-1 defeat by Chelsea on Sunday afternoon
Benitez has responded by axing Lascelles from the squad and will play summer signings Fabian Schar, Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clark in his three-man backline.
He will miss Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup trip to Nottingham Forest with an ankle injury, but Benitez insists there is no problem between the pair.
‘I was talking with him before the game, because he came to support the team,’ he said. After the game when he was leaving, I saw him.
‘I was talking with him this morning maybe three or four times because his partner is having a baby in a few days and we don’t know when. I am asking him all the time.’
Asked if everything was OK between the pair, he replied: ‘Yes, fine.’
Sportsmail understands Benitez had trialled three at the back in training last Thursday and Lascelles was not happy when he was placed on the right of the three. It is thought he wanted to be in the centre.
Manager Rafa Benitez insists there is no problem with the defender despite leaving him out
Come Friday and Lascelles was not involved at all and Benitez stuck to his guns for the game.
Lascelles was pictured in the stands at St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon.
Benitez once again launched a passionate defence of the tactics he employed in Sunday’s 2-1 Premier League defeat by Chelsea.
The Magpies had only 19 per cent of the possession at St James’ Park as Benitez – as he had done against the Premier League’s big guns last season – adopted an ultra-defensive approach.
Sky Sports pundit and Sportsmail columnist Jamie Redknapp suggested his players would be ’embarrassed’, but Benitez said: ‘Obviously we were watching the game and I was really pleased with the performance of the players in defence, how hard they worked, how well they did a lot of things that we were practising during the training sessions.
‘We did the same last year and we finished 10th, so that is the main thing for me.
‘Do we have to improve in transition and in attack? Yes, but we were really good in defence and doing that with this team, we finished 10th. We did really well.’