Rafa Benitez brushes off suggestions of top-four Newcastle United finish

Rafael Benitez has laughed off the prospect of a top-four Premier League finish despite Newcastle United's encouraging start to the season.

Newcastle head into the weekend in fourth place after three successive league victories and travel to Brighton, promoted from the Championship with them last season, on Sunday.

However, while some fans may be dreaming of the days when the club rubbed shoulders with Europe's elite, Benitez is refusing to entertain the idea.

Asked -- in tongue-in-cheek fashion -- about Champions League qualification, he said: "No.

"At the moment, I am just thinking about if we can get three points against Brighton, that's it.

"It's not that I am watching the table. Yes, I have seen the table, but I am not really concerned about that.

"My main responsibility is to be sure that they play with the same intensity and we approach every game as if it was the most important. That's it."

Asked whether his players were exceeding expectations, Benitez said: "It's difficult to say, because when you see them training every day, you know they can play at the level they have been playing.

"But you have to win. Sometimes, playing well, you cannot win, and sometimes you win playing badly.

"But in terms of performance and the way they are doing things, it's more or less what I was expecting."

Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic will be on the sidelines as he completes a three-match ban, while defender Florian Lejeune is also be missing after suffering a minor setback to his return from ankle ligament damage.