Fulham boss Claudio Ranieri has hailed Rafa Benitez’s work at Newcastle branding the Spaniard “more Italian than me” in his managerial style.
Ranieri has challenged Premier League basement club Fulham to take a leaf out of Newcastle’s book, having watched the Magpies move away from the relegation picture.
Fulham will head to Newcastle on Saturday bidding for just a second win in 12 league matches, with Ranieri insisting his men enjoy the ever-lively St James’ Park atmosphere.
“I saw him a long time ago in Valencia, he’s a great manager who has won a lot, he is very intelligent, tactically is very attentive, and he’s created a very good group there,” said Ranieri.
“The team is strong, very intensive, tight – I think Rafa is more Italian than me!
“That’s because he’s very, very attentive on the tactical movement of the players.
“They were down two months ago and in this moment they are safe. So for us they could be good inspiration.
“The Newcastle fans are very, very warm but the players love to play against teams that have very good fans. It’s a bad thing when there is nobody at the stadium.”
Aleksandar Mitrovic will return to Newcastle looking to prove a point against his former club, with Ranieri hoping the Serbia striker can make a big impact back on familiar ground.
Ranieri insisted, however, that the only reason Mitrovic’s Newcastle spell did not quite work out was purely down to the time it takes to acclimatise to English football.
“When you play in another country you can touch the ball two, three times,” said Ranieri. “When you play in England one touch is too much, you have to play half-touch.
“That’s it. And the player who came in had to think about it. You try to transmit this but only the experience, you need six months, maybe one year to understand this.
“I hope when a player goes back to his previous club he wants to show something more. I hope everything for Aleksandar, believe me, I pray.
“Aleksandar in Newcastle didn’t do a very good job because when a player comes from another country it’s not easy to adapt immediately to English football.
“But in Fulham he’s adapted very, very well. And I hope he can do a very outstanding match.
“I don’t know if they will give a warm welcome to Aleksandar but I hope Aleksandar will make a very good match.”