A 3-0 win over the Blues in May cemented a 10th-place finish for the Magpies on their return to the Premier League and sent Benitez, his players and the fans off on their holidays wearing broad smiles.
Three months on, storm clouds have gathered over St James’ Park once again with the manager’s plans to take the club forward having prompted a distinctly lukewarm response from the club’s hierarchy, resulting in a lacklustre recruitment drive which has angered supporters.
By contrast, Chelsea spent almost £130million on just two players, keeper Kepa and midfielder Jorginho, and Benitez knows that will make a repeat of last season’s heroics all the more difficult.
He said: “We are talking about the Premier League now and the difference between teams now is so big. They are spending a lot of the money on bringing in the best players in the world, so it’s quite difficult to keep this intensity.
“Last weekend, you could see teams with great intensity still conceding a lot of goals. Why? Because the quality of the other teams is really, really good now.
“You have to find the balance and the balance means that you have to try to win, but you have to try to win using the brain, not just the heart.”
The Magpies head into the game having taken just a single point from their opening two fixtures against Tottenham and Cardiff, and kicking themselves as a result having passed up opportunities to snatch a draw against the former before squandering the chance to beat the visiting Bluebirds by missing an injury-time penalty.
Benitez did not like much of what he saw against Cardiff and has urged his players to learn from the errors which have hampered them to date.
He said: “It’s the beginning of the season, so if you don’t learn after two games, then something is wrong.
“We have to be sure that they understand what was wrong and also what we did well because we were quite positive in some things.
“But I didn’t like the game. I was not happy with the way that things were going on and we had too many problems. But still OK, we got one point. It could have been more, it could have been less.”
All three players have been linked with moves away from Spurs this summer, but time is running out if they are to join a foreign club, with the transfer window shutting next Friday.
Pochettino, who has said any player can leave if they don’t show full commitment to the cause, added that all three will get a chance to win a place in the team.
He said: “I expect all the players… I am working as if all the players are going to be here.
“I cannot work if I think they will not be here. Not only these names, different names can get an offer.
“Maybe this afternoon arrives an offer we’ll consider. You’re focused on different names, I’m focused on providing them with an opportunity to play.
“It’s my fifth year as manager. For me, we start from zero and give an opportunity for all players to play and perform and not think about the past or what will happen in the future.
“What happened yesterday is gone. And you can only change your future if you’re in the best condition. The most important thing is to be ready.”
Alderweireld has enjoyed the biggest integration back into Pochettino’s plans after he played 90 minutes against Fulham last week.
The Belgian defender appeared to be frozen out by his manager at the end of last season after contract talks hit an impasse, while Alderweireld’s international team-mate Dembele has also stalled on a new deal, but has featured off the bench twice.
That leaves England left-back Rose, who has fallen behind Ben Davies in the pecking order and looks the most likely to still leave, with Paris Saint-Germain thought to be keen.
Pochettino said of Rose: “Look, I don’t want to talk about individuals who still don’t play.
“Be sure they’re in the squad and will have the opportunity to play. My decision is my decision.
“Maybe he’ll play on Monday. Or maybe not. You need to wait and see what happens.
“We talk a lot and anything I tell them, I tell in private and explain what I expect.
“If they want to ask me questions about football, or on the personal side as a human being, we are so open to helping them.”
Spurs head to Manchester United on Monday night hoping to end a run of four successive defeats there.
Pochettino was given an even bigger headache on Friday when it emerged club captain Hugo Lloris had been charged with drink driving.
It remains to be seen whether the Frenchman will be involved but Pochettino says his team are heading north with belief.
“We must believe. In football, if you don’t believe you lose before you arrive there,” he added.
“We’re confident – just like we were confident in the last four years. Trust in yourself and in your team, believe you can win – that’s always the most important.
“It’s important to arrive in the best condition. In our mind we need to go there and believe we can win.”
The defender earned a 1-1 draw, cancelling out Willy Boly’s controversial opener at Molineux after the Wolves centre-back scored with his arm.
It was only the fifth time City had dropped points in the Premier League this calendar year, despite dominating for long spells.
The draw set a new club record for Wolves as they extended their winless run in the top flight to 17 games, stretching back to their last spell in the Premier League in 2011/12.
They gave as good as they got in the opening 15 minutes but were fortunate Ilkay Gundogan tamely shot at Rui Patricio after Aguero’s knockdown.
Helder Costa and Diogo Jota were getting joy out wide for Wolves and the hosts refused to let City hit their stride.
Wolves denied them space and time during an energetic start and were almost rewarded in a chaotic few minutes.
First, in the 20th minute, Vincent Kompany, who endured a sloppy first half, was caught in possession inside City’s half and Jota raced away.
His strike was deflected into the path of Jimenez to tap in from four yards but the striker had strayed a yard offside.
City immediately broke and the previously quiet Aguero thumped a post from 15 yards to remind Wolves of his threat.
FT | #WOL 1-1 #MCI— Wolves (@Wolves) 25 August 2018
It's all over at Molineux. The visitors come from behind to earn a point through Aymeric Laporte after Willy Boly had given Wolves a second-half lead. Great game, great Wolves performance. #WOLMCI
Then, 60 seconds later, Patricio produced a wonderful save to deny Sterling, tipping the forward’s brilliant half volley from 25 yards onto the bar.
Pep Guardiola’s side had begun to turn up the heat and Boly’s late tackle thwarted Aguero.
As Wolves’ early threat subsided and City asserted their control, further openings began to show for the visitors and Fernandinho dragged wide from 18 yards.
A first-half opener for City seemed inevitable but Wolves escaped again before the break when Patricio palmed Benjamin Mendy’s fizzing cross to Aguero but gathered the striker’s follow-up.
The visitors continued in the same vein after the break as Wolves sat deep and Kompany nodded Gundogan’s corner over three minutes into the second half.
But, against the run of play, the hosts took the lead in contentious fashion in the 57th minute.
Ederson needed to save from Costa after the forward nipped in ahead of a dithering Laporte as Wolves earned a corner.
They played it short to Joao Moutinho and his wicked cross was deflected in by the diving Boly at the far post.
But the defender clearly knocked the ball in with his arm, which was missed by the officials, to leave Molineux in raptures.
Guardiola threw on Gabriel Jesus for Bernardo Silva in response and David Silva’s penalty appeals went unrewarded.
But City levelled after 69 minutes with a goal of supreme simplicity when Laporte crashed in a header from Gundogan’s free-kick.
It sucked the life out of Wolves and Patricio’s fine reactions stopped Jesus’ fine header making it 2-1.
Wolves conjured one final chance when Jota lashed over before Augero’s stoppage-time free kick struck the bar for City.