Ashley 'hopes very much' that Benitez stays at Newcastle

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"I am very concerned about it (Rafa's future), if he is not given the backing he deserves".

"Rafa, as always, has my full support, and contrary to some media reports that portray me as a pantomime villain, I will continue to ensure that every penny generated by the club is available to him".

Asked if he is expecting a summer bid for the central defender, who will line up against Chelsea on Sunday, Benitez said: "We are talking about a young centre-back, a young English centre-back".

Rafael Benitez is hoping skipper Jamaal Lascelles stays at Newcastle next season amid claims that Chelsea are leading a pack of potential suitors who are willing to pay £30million for him.

With the visitors knowing only a win will give them any chance of climbing into the top four, Benitez's men face a tough task, but he wants them to go out on a high as they attempt to hold on to 10th place.

Representatives of Benitez - who has a year left on his deal - are in talks with the club's hierarchy over a new deal and a summer transfer budget.

"For me, the key has been the unity, togetherness between fans, players, staff, everyone, and the work-rate of this group of players".

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Newcastle issued a statement from owner Mike Ashley a couple of hours after the match.

"On many occasions throughout the season they have been described as a Championship side, which I personally consider to be derogatory".

Shearer reacted angrily, saying: "Copy and paste".

Christian Atsu and Ciaran Clark are both ruled out through injury, loan striker Islam Slimani is suspended and winger Kenedy has played his final game of his temporary spell on Tyneside, unable to feature against his parent side.

Manager Antonio Conte made eight changes with the final in mind and saw an unimpressive performance.

"How? We have to do a lot of things right and to start making the right decisions now". They're tied with three other teams on 41-points, meaning they have a fight on their hands to secure a top-half finish.

The 24-year-old said: "It has been a good season for me".

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