Rafael Benitez can feel the belief returning to his squad as Newcastle United look to take another step towards Premier League safety against Manchester City on Tuesday.
Newcastle beat Swansea City 3-0 on Saturday, just hours after Sunderland had downed 17th-placed Norwich City by the same scoreline to bring the three clubs within three points of each other, with the north-east rivals holding a game in hand over the Canaries.
The Magpies’ extra fixture looks a tricky test, with City chasing points in their bid to nail down a top-four spot.
— Premier League (@premierleague) April 17, 2016
But Benitez hopes the increasing optimism on Tyneside will give his side considerable home advantage, with Newcastle having beaten Liverpool and West Ham at St James’ Park already this term.
“After the games you watch the table and it’s a little bit better so we have more confidence. Hopefully we can keep the momentum,” he said.
“We said before playing at home could be massive for us, we have another three games at home so hopefully we can play at the same level with the same intensity and be lucky – as sometimes you have to be.”
Benitez could welcome Daryl Janmaat back from a groin injury and has seen plenty of signs that his players have it within them to escape the drop.
“It was important to give them confidence before the game,” he added. “The game plan, the ideas that we were practicing in training sessions this week you could see they were trying and trying.
“Sometimes going well, sometimes not so well, but in the end we won and the team has this feeling that working hard and working together with the fans behind us we can beat anyone.
“I think that they are now thinking that we can do it and they believe they have this feeling, like all the fans, watching the team working hard, everybody thinks we can do it
“I say a lot of times ‘we will fight until the end’, but now we are closer it will be easier for me to give this speech.”
Newcastle’s recent record against City makes for grim reading, however, losing the last 12 Premier League meetings between the sides by an aggregate 38-6 score.
That will boost a City side hoping to pull further away from fifth-placed Manchester United and Arsenal after the Gunners’ draw against Crystal Palace on Sunday left Manuel Pellegrini’s men third in the table.
Pellegrini suggested after Saturday’s 3-0 win at Chelsea that he could make changes as City look to maintain their form ahead of a Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid.
Yaya Toure returned from a knee injury at Stamford Bridge, but Gael Clichy (back), David Silva (ankle) and Raheem Sterling (groin) will not feature.
Vincent Kompany is a potential addition to Pellegrini’s squad after his latest calf issue, though Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi have helped see out consecutive clean sheets.
Key Opta Stats:
– Newcastle United have won none of the last 18 Barclays Premier League meetings against Manchester City (drawing two, losing 16), losing the last 12 in a row.
– If City win they will equal the record of consecutive Premier League wins against a specific opponent (13 – Manchester United against Wigan Athletic).
– Newcastle have scored just one goal in their last six Premier League games against City, conceding 23 in that time.
– Sergio Aguero has scored 10 goals in just eight Premier League appearances against Newcastle. His tally of 10 goals is the joint best tally he has against any opponent in his Premier League career (along with Tottenham).
– City have scored at least two goals in each of their last 15 Premier League games against Newcastle and 11 in the last two meetings.
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