Cardiff boss Neil Warnock says his feud with Rafael Benitez is over and that the Spaniard is the one man Newcastle cannot afford to lose.
The pair, who cross Premier League swords on Saturday, fell out when Benitez played a weakened Liverpool team ahead of the Champions League final at Fulham on the penultimate weekend of the 2006/07 season.
Fulham won 1-0 and the Cottagers’ victory helped relegate Warnock’s Sheffield United and sparked a war of words, and even the threat of legal action, between the two men.
“Funnily enough I was talking to (former Liverpool striker) Craig Bellamy at the academy this morning,” Warnock said at his pre-match press conference.
“He played in that game and he was telling me how they had three days off before and the other lads weren’t bothered either.
“It’s all water under the bridge now, life’s too short. I’ve got to enjoy this now.
“If you’d have told me when I first came in that we would be playing Rafa’s side with a full house, it’s incredible.”
Benitez’s position has been the subject of much scrutiny this summer due to the lack of investment in the squad at St James’ Park.
Warnock questions criticism of Newcastle’s spending, but he does admit that Benitez’s future is crucial to them moving in the right direction.
“The one person Newcastle can’t afford to lose is Rafa,” Warnock said.
“They can get away with losing any player, but his commitment to Newcastle has been fantastic.
“He’s in his last year now, so it’ll be interesting to see how that develops because I’m sure worldwide he will be targeted.
“But if you look at their squad and their players, they’ve improved from last year – and they finished 10th last year.
“So I don’t know where they could improve really. I think Mike Ashley (Newcastle owner) is an easy target, everyone blames him.”
Cardiff lost their Premier League opener at Bournemouth 2-0 last week and created few chances.
But Warnock, who is expected to hand loan signing Harry Arter his debut and is waiting on the fitness of striker Kenneth Zohore, insists his newly-promoted squad will be competitive.
“We’ve nothing to be afraid of,” he said.
“We had to improve the team from last week and we can do that, we’ve got lads to come in and others getting fit.
“The next couple of games will show us more. But we were in the game right until the end at Bournemouth, and despite the criticism I was quite pleased with it.”
Cardiff are expecting over 30,000 for their first home game in the Premier League for over four years.
“I’m in the game for days like this, I’ve got goose-pimples thinking about it now,” Warnock said.
“That noise, looking around the stadium, a packed house. It’s fantastic and I’m honoured to be the manager.
“It’s a two-way thing now and I want to repay the fans by having some enjoyment.”
Emery replaced Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium in May but saw his side lose their first Premier League game of the season last weekend, going down 2-0 to champions Manchester City.
The tough start continues for Emery and his players with a trip to face London rivals Chelsea this weekend.
It was clear against City that the former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain boss is looking to change the philosophy at Arsenal as he looks to get them playing out from the back and pressing the opponent when out of possession.
Mustafi started the opening-weekend defeat at the heart of the Gunners’ defence alongside new recruit Sokratis Papastathopoulos and admits he has been impressed with Emery since he took charge.
“When I first met him, he had this aura that he knew exactly what he wants to do, what he wants to be working on, what are is priorities and he was very detailed,” the Germany international said.
“He was not trying to show us new football but he was trying to put one idea into the team which is the same for everyone and we work for the same things.
“My first impression was that he is someone who really knows what he wants and really sticks to his idea.”
Mustafi has come in for criticism since his big-money move from Valencia in 2016 but the 26-year-old believes Emery can make him a better player moving forward.
“Every manager is managing the team in a different way – with Unai, a few things changed and I quite like the things that have changed,” he added.
“I quite like the idea that the coach has on how he wants to play. He is going to bring us forward because he knows exactly what he wants to do and what he wants from the players.
“He knows exactly what kind of game we want to play. We had a lot of meetings and the boss told me what the things he sees as very positive in my game and what I can work on.”
Arsenal will be without Ainsley Maitland-Niles at Stamford Bridge after he suffered a minor leg fracture against City – but Nacho Monreal is likely to return at left-back while Lucas Torreira will be pushing to make his full debut in midfield.
Cesc Fabregas however, will miss the meeting with his former club Blues manager Maurizio Sarri has said.
The 31-year-old Spanish midfielder joined the Blues from Barcelona having begun his professional career at Arsenal, but will be unavailable due to an “unusual” injury close to his knee.
Sarri said: “Fabregas is out of this match. I hope he will be able to be on the pitch next week. I’m not sure.
“It is nothing serious, but he has a very unusual injury. I hope in the next week we will be able to have him in training.
“He has a pain, not in the knee, (but) near the knee.”