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Rafa Benitez brings his Newcastle team to Turf Moor tonight and it’s almost 14 years since he made his first visit for the FA Cup tie against Liverpool in January 2005 when we beat them 1-0 with an own goal from Djimi Traore.

Benitez has been at Newcastle for some time now. Although they went down when he took over in 2016, he brought them straight back up and they are now in their second successive season back in the Premier League.

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He’s had his say this week on our European exploits but doesn’t expect there to be any hangover remaining. “The way you play in Europe has changed a little bit,” he said. “Once that is out of the way you have to settle down again. They have not played in Europe for a while now. They are back to normal really.

“The teams at the top of the table are so strong you could lose anyway. Sometimes it is just because you have had a distraction. You get a couple of bad results then lose confidence. It is something you have to change little by little. Hopefully, they will continue to lose but then pick up after Monday and do well.”

He added: “They are quite strong at home. They lost against some of the best teams in the league. I was watching the games and they had chances at the beginning, they were pushing.

“It will be a tough game for sure. It doesn’t matter what they are doing now or what we are doing now. I think, obviously, they will try to get three points against us because we are close in the table, but the pressure is more or less similar.”

Much has been said about our start to the season compared with a year ago and Sean Dyche admitted: “We haven’t hit the markers of last season and they have been addressed, individually and as a team, and now we have to get back to that start point and push on.

“We are still in front of the curve. I know the facts and figures of our side from my six years here. We know the breakdown, whether its physical, tactical, technical, individual or team, but we’re not just accepting of what we had five or six years ago; we are pushing them because the game is moving forwards every year.

“We are equally mindful of all that, but it’s a building process and we’ve come out of a really tough start to the season, on the pitch with the number of games and off it with all the injury problems. All those are differing challenges, and in the ensuing period of calm it’s now about keep pushing. There’s still more to come, but the structural side and physical side are returning, so we are getting back to what we can be.”

He added: “I’ve been very pleased with the players’ training in the past fortnight. The pride they have in how they work is enormous and they have shown me they are keen to get back to it. Equally, I am proud of the players for what they give, and the more they continue to give, the more chance we have of success and getting results. I think there are signs of that, but we are working hard to get back to those levels.”

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