Benitez believes Lascelles will stay at Newcastle

Rafael Benitez is hopeful skipper Jamaal Lascelles will stay at Newcastle next season amid reports that Chelsea are leading a pack of clubs willing to pay £30m for the defender.

Despite the fact his own future at St James’ Park is in doubt as his representatives discuss a contract extension, manager Bentiez is already planning for the new campaign and is keen to retain Lascelles.

Asked if he is expecting a summer bid for the 24-year-old, who will line up against Chelsea on Sunday, Benitez said: “We are talking about a young centre-back, a young English centre-back.

“There are not too many young centre-backs who can play in the Premier League and they are English, so he has many positive things.

“The main one for me is he is keen to learn, so then you have all the potential. Does that mean that a lot of clubs will be interested? Yes. Can they sign him? I don’t think so, but we will see.”

Chelsea must beat Newcastle and Liverpool have to lose at home to Brighton for the Blues to snatch a place in next season’s Champions League.

And Benitez, having had a spell as Chelsea interim boss, knows how important Champions League football is to owner Roman Abramovich.

He said: “It’s massive. I had that conversation with Abramovich at his home, and it was about, ‘What is the priority?’. Champions League, Champions League…

“When I went there, they were in a bad position and we finished third and we won the Europa League. For him, it was massive to be sure that they could be in the Champions League.”