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Tame Newcastle urged to play with more passion

Published 11/04/2016

Rafa Benitez has urged supporters to back the team
Rafa Benitez has urged supporters to back the team

Rafael Benitez has challenged Newcastle to rediscover their "character and passion" or face slipping to Premier League relegation with a whimper.

Comical defending and a limp, frozen performance from Newcastle gifted Southampton an easy 3-1 league win at St Mary's on Saturday.

Shane Long, Graziano Pelle and Victor Wanyama struck all too easily for Southampton, consigning Newcastle to a sixth defeat in a seven-match winless run.

Manager Benitez implored Newcastle's fuming fans to back his beleaguered side ahead of Saturday's critical home clash with Swansea, demanding a victory to keep the survival fight alive. "Character and passion, and positive play - that's the very least of what is expected every game, for 90 minutes," said Benitez.

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman hailed his side for pulling off his risky plan of starting with a 4-2-4 formation - insisting he could yet reprise that ploy at Everton on Saturday.

Koeman believes Saints can get away with pushing Dusan Tadic and Sadio Mane forward to partner Shane Long and Graziano Pelle in a heavily-offensive starting formation - but only if those players are then ready to defend when required. "We can certainly try it again," said Koeman of his aggressive tactics.

Belfast Telegraph

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