Rafael Benitez feels home advantage could make the difference for Newcastle United in their battle against relegation and believes a win over Swansea City on Saturday could kickstart a remarkable escape.
Newcastle have taken just one point from their last seven Premier League outings and sit 19th, trailing 17th-placed Norwich City by six points.
Four of Newcastle’s remaining six games will be played at St James’ Park, though, and Benitez is desperate to make the most of that in the weeks to come, urging his players to show unity in the decisive stages of the season.
“I think that the players know that it’s not the time to look for responsibility, just to stick together. That’s the only way; to stick together and try to do our best,” Benitez told nufcTV.
“I think the home games can be really important for us. We have these four games at home, so we need them. We have to start winning and if we can do it at home, the team will have more confidence for the rest of the games.
“But we have to improve our form from the first minute of the game until the last one. It’s not time for complaining or looking for who is responsible; now is the time to stick together, try to be ready for the next challenge against Swansea, and see what happens.
“I still have the belief that the games at home, if we can win the first one, will be really important for us. But we have to start winning in the next one.”
Newcastle will be without the likes of Tim Krul (knee), Massadio Haidara (knee) and Rob Elliot (knee) due to injury, while Daryl Janmaat (groin), Steven Taylor (muscular), Fabricio Coloccini (calf) and Kevin Mbabu (thigh) are all in danger of missing out as well.
Swansea, meanwhile, have won four out of their last six league games to move away from the drop zone in recent weeks.
Their 1-0 win over Chelsea last weekend saw them hit the 40-point mark, but right-back Angel Rangel is adamant Swansea’s season is not over just yet.
“We were always looking for 40 points to stay in the league and now we have reached that,” Rangel told the Swansea website.
“It has been a tough season, but I think we are safe now we have reached the 40-point mark. We still have games to play this season, though, and we must see how far we can go now.
“Things look much brighter but we will keep fighting until the end. The season is far from over for us.”
Swansea have few injury worries heading into Saturday’s encounter, with Leon Britton the only question mark due to a back problem.
Key Opta facts:
– Newcastle United have won just one of their nine Premier League games against Swansea City.
– Swansea have won just three of their last 17 Premier League away matches.
– Papiss Cisse has scored four goals in five Premier League appearances against Swansea.
– Gylfi Sigurdsson has scored in nine of his last 14 Premier League appearances for Swansea.
– Newcastle’s 25-points tally after 32 games is their worst at this stage of a Premier League season.
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