NEWCASTLE UNITED will field a strong enough team capable of avoiding a FA Cup shock this afternoon – even if Rafael Benitez has admitted this season is all about staying in the Premier League.

As the Magpies prepare to kick-off their push in the oldest club knock-out competition in the world, Benitez has made it clear exactly where his priorities lie this season.

The Spaniard’s comments have done nothing to help improve the image of FA Cup at a time when its value has diminished because of the money involved in both preserving top-flight status and, above that, the Champions League.

It could also frustrate many of the club’s fans, knowing Newcastle have not gone beyond the fourth round of the competition since 2006 – and have not won it since 1955.

Benitez insists he will still be naming a team to progress, having been dumped out of the FA Cup at Oxford United last season when he was criticised for the team selection.

He said: “Newcastle United Football Club is a massive club, but now we are newly-promoted and just here in the Premier League with massive problems because we have to stay up.

“That is the priority and the money is so big now that if you don't stay in the Premier League, you lose £100m already. We have to stay in the Premier League, but at the same time, we will try to win against Luton.

“I remember when I was at Liverpool, we had to win the league and now at any top side, some of them it's just to stay in the top four. Why? Because you have the Champions League money, so everything is around money. If you have more money, you can buy better players, you can play better football, so it's always the same situation.

“For us now, it's to stay up and if we can go through in the FA Cup, we will try to go as far as we can.”

When it was suggested that Benitez’s approach – which is similar to comments made by Steve McClaren and Alan Pardew on Tyneside that were slammed – wasn’t very romantic, he defended his stance by insisting he still wants to go through.

“I can be romantic but it doesn’t change anything. Will I play a weak team? No, I will play a strong team. That’s it, it’s what I can do,” said Benitez.

“I told the players ‘listen, we have to win and we want to be sure that we go through’. That’s it. After that, you can see the players on the pitch and how it’s going on and I will try to do my best from the bench to help the team.

“If we do well, fine, we will go to another game and see what happens. But I can’t guarantee ‘yeah, we will go and I want to do this and that’. No, the first thing is to win your games when you have problems in the Premier League.

“You have to win your games and be sure you can attract more players and bring more players because you will stay in the Premier League.

“I want to see Newcastle United in the Premier League, stable, and that means that then you can go and try to win cups or whatever. But the first thing is to stay up.”

Newcastle will be without Chancel Mbemba after he took a knock to his knee in training. He joins Rob Elliot, Florian Lejeune and Jesus Gamez on the sidelines to face Luton.

The Hatters will bring 7,000 fans to the North-East and will be dangerous, having scored 62 times already to climb to the top of League Two under Nathan Jones. Newcastle are without a goal at St James’ Park in 267 minutes.

Benitez said: "At one point I was just focused on winning, and winning and winning trophies, and now I have to focus on trying to bring the best out of my players and win games and see how far we can go.

"But I cannot change anything and realise the potential of the club before Luton, so I have to concentrate on what I can do now and that is win this game.

"My experience in England means these games are massive for the teams that are below, and then they will bring a lot of fans, so for everyone it is massive.

“When I was in Liverpool it was exactly the same. You know that these games are quite difficult because the teams will give everything. Luton are doing well, have confidence, and if you do your job then 80 per cent of the time the team that is strongest will go through, so we have to do our job."

Luton will have former Newcastle midfielder Rob Lee’s sons Olly and Elliot aiming to shine. Benitez added: “They are doing well, their strikers are scoring a lot of goals. Their organisation of the team is good, they score goals, they go forward, they have energy.

“We have seen some videos and the reports are quite positive so they will be dangerous for sure going forward. We will see what they do when they play away against a team that is in another division. But their mentality is very positive, very offensive and that is always a threat.”