Newly appointed Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez believes his struggling players will be under similar pressure to leaders Leicester City when the sides meet in the Premier League on Monday.
Benitez was appointed as Steve McClaren’s successor on Friday and, charged with leading Newcastle out of the relegation zone, he instantly called the squad in for an extra training session in preparation for the trip to the King Power Stadium.
During his spells in charge of Valencia, Liverpool, Inter, Chelsea, Napoli and Real Madrid, Benitez customarily found himself in the hunt for trophies, but is confident his vast experience in the game has him adequately prepared for a fight to survive.
“I am coming from the academy – I was a coach in the academy of Real Madrid in the first division, second division, with some promotions and relegations,” he said.
“I have some experience because I am getting older. At the end it is more or less the same.
“Some people say it is not, but, in terms of how you have to approach the games, you have to be calm, you have to analyse things and you have to be sure that everybody is giving everything.
“The responsibility of someone who wants to win a trophy and does not want to make mistakes is more or less the responsibility of someone who doesn’t want to make a mistake because they can be relegated.
“In terms of the approach, it has to be similar. The main thing for me is I know we have a very good group of players, I know we have quality in the squad.
“We have to give them confidence and from them I expect 100 per cent every game. They have to give everything.”
Maximum effort has rarely appeared to be lacking in Leicester’s charge to the top of the table.
Their phenomenal run has also been built on the foundation of a stable starting XI, although manager Claudio Ranieri has used his squad to good effect over recent weeks.
Following almost three months on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, winger Jeffrey Schlupp has featured from the bench in Leicester’s past three matches – impressing as a half-time replacement in last weekend’s 1-0 win at Watford.
“It’s obviously special,” Schlupp told Leicester’s official website. “It’s a special season. The mood is great at the minute and obviously everyone is in good shape really. That’s players and staff included of course.
“It’s definitely a great place to be at and we just want to keep all of these going.
“[Ranieri] is called the Tinkerman. but he just keeps working. We’ve got to trust our manager and trust his decisions.
“That’s what he gets paid for, that’s his job so we leave that to him. That’s his decision so we just do what he wants and be ready if we’re called upon.”
Leicester were boosted by the news that Riyad Mahrez only suffered cramp in his hamstring after netting the winner at Watford and the star forward will be fit to start on Monday.
Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse and defender Fabricio Coloccini could return from respective groin and calf injuries, although Andros Townsend (hamstring) and Cheick Tiote (muscular) might have to wait for their own departures from a crowded treatment room.
Key Opta stats
– Leicester City have won their last two Premier League games against Newcastle United after failing to win any of the previous seven (D3 L4).
– The leaders have lost only one of their past 17 matches at the King Power Stadium, with 11 wins and five draws.
– Newcastle have lost 17 of their past 21 Premier League away games.
– Riyad Mahrez has been invovled in a league-high 26 Premier League goals this season thanks to 15 goals and 11 assists.
– Newcastle have not scored in 13 of their past 20 league away games, netting eight times across the other seven outings.
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