RAFAEL BENITEZ and his players are focused on maintaining a solid start to the Premier League season despite the ongoing takeover talk surrounding Newcastle United.

It has emerged over the last 48 hours that Amanda Staveley has met Magpies chiefs as she weighs up a potential takeover of the Tyneside club, even though she is yet to speak with Mike Ashley.

Staveley, who runs the £20bn private equity fund PCP Capital Partners, is interested in buying a Premier League club and is known to have already chatted with Benitez’s representatives.

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She also spoke with Newcastle’s managing director Lee Charnley, key Ashley confidante Keith Bishop and lawyer Justin Barnes following the 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Sunday.

The mere fact she has been inside the Newcastle boardroom to talk with Ashley’s trusted lieutenants highlights her genuine interest, and she helped Thaksin Shinawatra sell Manchester City to Abu Dhabi’s Sheik Mansour nine years ago.

No immediate sale to Staveley, 44, is imminent but she is expected to take the next step and talk over a potential deal with Ashley, who is demanding around the £400m mark to sell.

The former girlfriend of Prince Andrew has previously helped Middle East and Chinese investors attempt to takeover Liverpool, only for such moves to prove unsuccessful.

What is clear is that Ashley is still interested in selling up at the right price, but Benitez is keen to leave the behind-the-scenes takeover talk to others.

Having him in charge at St James’ Park, though, clearly makes the club more attractive to potential buyers, which is one of the reasons why there would be a willingness to tie him down to a new deal.

Despite a frustrating transfer window which left Benitez short of the sort of quality he would have liked in his squad, he has still managed to lead Newcastle to a positive start to life back in the top tier.

The Magpies have lost just one of their last five matches and the point claimed against Liverpool on Sunday has maintained a position in the top half of the table.

Midfielder Mohamed Diame said: “We're very pleased. When you play at home, you always want to win, but against Liverpool, it's a good point. The fighting spirit we showed is good for the future.

"It's a good start to have ten points. When you come back from the Championship, and you start a season like this, I think it's always good for the future. We just need to keep going and keep working.

“The quality is the difference (to the Championship). You saw the goal of Coutinho on Sunday. They are massive players. They run quicker and they are more organised. You just need to make the step up.”

After the international break there is a run of fixtures which Newcastle will be hoping to do well out of. After the trip to Southampton a week on Sunday, they face Crystal Palace, Burnley and Bournemouth before taking on Manchester United on November 18.

Diame said: “Our effort levels were massive on Sunday. We were working all week about the shape of the team. The manager gave us some tactics. We can see that it helped us a lot. We just need to keep going and keep fighting in the games we have coming up.

"I think when you do well, and you're happy with your performances, the international break doesn't matter. When you're in a bad mood, it's difficult to wait two weeks to play a game. We are happy.”