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World Cup 2018

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Hull performance showed how strong we are, says upbeat Benitez

Rafael Benitez has told his Newcastle players to take the positives from their EFL Cup heartache as they attempt to edge themselves back towards the Premier League.

The Sky Bet Championship leaders came within a whisker of securing a place in the semi-finals when they lost to top-flight Hull on penalties in midweek, having led briefly in extra-time.

On Friday evening, they travel to Nottingham Forest looking to extend their two-point advantage at the top of the table, and the Spaniard insists they should do so with confidence.

Benitez said: "The way we played and the way we managed the game, it means we are a strong team and we can play against strong teams too. It was a positive night apart from the result.

"We played against a Premier League team and for a long time we were the better team. We had a lot of chances and then when we scored we needed to manage the situation better.

"We should have defended better because we needed to control the game at that point. We had nearly won."

The Magpies head for the City Ground having lost their last two fixtures following a shock 1-0 home defeat by Blackburn last weekend, as they went in search of a club record 10th successive victory with many onlookers predicting that the Magpies will run away with the league.

Benitez said: "It's so difficult. Talking also with managers after every game, they are telling me the same.

"When you expect an easy game, you have a very difficult game; when you expect a difficult game, sometimes it is easier.

"It changes every week, it changes every game because of the two games a week. The style of football changes too, the team you play against. You have to be ready."

Forest go into the game on the back of successive away wins at Ipswich and Barnsley, but sitting 17th in the table.

Defender Joe Worrall said: "Fans and a lot of people think it's the same old football cliches, 'We go again' and everything, but it literally is. Whoever you come up against, it doesn't really matter, you have just got to try to get those three points.

"It means a bit more that Forest is my team and always will be, and trying to beat the best team in the league is a challenge, but it's a privilege to be playing against them, so it's good."

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