Benitez urges Newcastle to banish relegation fears with victory at Bournemouth
A win would take the Magpies to within a point of their manager’s target for the season.
Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez has told his players they can effectively end their Premier League relegation fears by claiming all three points at Bournemouth.
The Spaniard believes 38 points will be enough to stay up this season despite Cardiff and Southampton scrapping for their lives at the bottom end of the table, and a win at the Vitality Stadium would take the Magpies to within a single point of that target.
However, Benitez knows defeat, coupled with more good results for the chasing pack, could drag his team back into the mix.
Asked Newcastle were exceeding his expectations after a run of five successive home wins, Benitez said: “No.
“At the moment, they are doing well, fine, but I will tell you maybe after this game, not because it’s the first one and the most important one, but because it’s a game that can change a lot of things.
“If we can get three points in this game, I think we can keep pushing with more confidence and without maybe any fear that if you have a couple of bad results, everything will be more difficult.
“If we do that, I think we can do much better; if we don’t do that, we have to keep fighting like we have done already.”
Benitez’s men showed admirable spirit last weekend to bounce back from a 2-0 half-time deficit to defeat Everton 3-2 at St James’ Park, although wins for fellow relegation candidates Brighton, Cardiff and Southampton took some of the edge off a thrilling afternoon.
He believes confidence within the camp is as high as it has been during his three years on Tyneside, although he is acutely aware that could be dangerous.
The 58-year-old said: “It’s quite dangerous because we have to be sure that we approach every game with the right concentration.
“We cannot start conceding two goals in the first 20 minutes. We have to be sure that we are in the game until the end and we have chances, and that we continue defending the same way we have been defending.”
Benitez will be forced to make changes at Bournemouth, with skipper Jamaal Lascelles nursing a knee problem and fellow central defender Fabian Schar starting a two-match ban after reaching 10 bookings for the season.
In the circumstances, Republic of Ireland international Ciaran Clark’s return from a knee problem could hardly be better timed, with Federico Fernandez also keen to get a chance to reprise his early-season form.