Rafael Benitez has told Newcastle to continue fighting for Premier League points as if they will still need something at Fulham on the final day of the season to clinch survival.
Back-to-back victories over Huddersfield and Burnley in the last week have eased the Magpies six points clear of the relegation zone and raised hopes they can match last season’s top-10 finish.
However, Benitez knows there is still plenty of work to be done before they are sure of a third straight top-flight campaign, starting at West Ham on Saturday evening.
He said: “Three or four weeks ago we were thinking it would be very, very difficult, now we are starting to talk about, ‘Maybe you can finish 10th.
“It is, for me, very clear – we have to stay calm, we have to go there, try to get three points and if we can, fine, if we cannot, carry on.
“I have said in a lot of interviews that the Fulham game, the last one of the season, will be the most important – hopefully not, but we have to make sure that we continue doing things in the same way that we are doing already.”
Tuesday night’s 2-0 win over the Clarets left Newcastle on 31 points with 10 games remaining and five behind the Hammers in 10th.
It further increased the feelgood factor on Tyneside in a season which had previously been shrouded in uncertainty and discontent, threatening to put smiles back on the faces of fans thrilled by academy graduate Sean Longstaff’s emergence and the arrival of new signing Miguel Almiron, as well as recent results.
Longstaff’s contribution has been outstanding, to the extent that he has been nominated for the Premier League Player of the Month award for February alongside Sergio Aguero, Paul Pogba, Virgil Van Dijk, Luke Shaw and Sadio Mane.
Benitez said: “To be fair, I didn’t know who was nominated and I think he has to win because when you compare the other players with him, it’s a big, big credit to him to be there.”
However, the main topic of discussion on Tyneside continues to be the Spaniard’s own future with his contract due to expire at the end of the campaign, although he once again refused to be drawn on the subject.
Asked if he understood the anxiety of supporters, Benitez said: “Yes, I understand 100 per cent, but at the same time I think my idea is to be sure that the team is focused on football and if we can get the results, after we can talk about everything.”
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