Belfast Telegraph

Benitez: Cardiff clash important but not definitive

The Magpies have won just one of their last nine league fixtures.

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez is gearing up for a crucial Premier League clash with Cardiff (Martin Rickett/PA)
Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez is gearing up for a crucial Premier League clash with Cardiff (Martin Rickett/PA)

Rafael Benitez has warned Newcastle that even victory in their crunch Premier League survival clash with Cardiff will not end their fears as they battle to avoid the drop.

The Magpies host their fellow strugglers on Saturday having slipped into the bottom three as a result of just one win in nine league outings.

And while an unfriendly fixture list has contributed to that run of form, three points against 17th-placed Cardiff at St James’ Park seem essential if they are to pull out of that spiral.

However, asked if the game is the biggest for some time on Tyneside, Magpies manager Benitez replied: “Yes, it’s an important game, but still we have too many games to play.

“Obviously, we will go for the three points and after that, what will happen? Still we have to keep winning games against teams.

“My analysis is very simple: we will play at home against Burnley or Huddersfield or Crystal Palace and a lot of teams where maybe you can do well and you can get three points.

“If we are together and we continue pushing and we keep working hard, we will have more chances for sure.

“It’s not a secret, it’s no rocket science, it’s simple.”

Newcastle have won only two league games at St James’ all season and none since they beat Bournemouth on November 10, and Benitez is desperate to harness the passion of supporters who continue to pack out the stadium despite their mounting anger at owner Mike Ashley’s running of the club.

He said: “We will play against Cardiff City now – what is the game-plan they will have? From the beginning, they will try to stop our team trying to do what we want to do to be sure that the fans are a little bit nervous and a little bit anxious.

“Again the message is very clear: stay together behind the team, keep pushing, keep helping the players because it is our team. If we want to stay up, we need every single fans behind the players, every player giving everything and every member of staff trying to do our best.”

Benitez will hope to have at least some of the quartet who limped away from Tuesday night’s FA Cup third-round victory at Blackburn – Jamaal Lascelles, Ciaran Clark, Fabian Schar and Isaac Hayden – fit for the game, while Kenedy and Mohamed Diame are also progressing.

However, Paul Dummett and Jonjo Shelvey will miss out once again.

PA

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