Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rafa Upbeat on His Tale of Two Cities; Magpies to Harness Air of Optimism

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rafa Upbeat on His Tale of Two Cities; Magpies to Harness Air of Optimism

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Waugh chris.waugh@ncjmedia.co.uk

AFA Benitez insists his Newcastle United squad believe the great escape is possible.

RLess than a fortnight ago, the Spaniard admitted some of his players were "worried" that the Magpies could not avoid the drop after the 3-1 loss at Southampton, their 10th successive away defeat.

Yet four points from United's last two outings has seen the faith return to every single Newcastle player, argues Benitez.

In fact, the Spaniard claims he has seen belief restored to the club's staff, as well as the Magpies faithful, after the victory over Swansea City and the draw against Manchester City.

Benitez is so confident his players have a new-found optimism that he is even targeting three points against Liverpool at Anfield today - a ground where Newcastle have won just once in the Premier League.

When Benitez was reminded that he claimed some of his players lacked the belief to survive just a couple of weeks ago, he admitted: "I accept not just the players, but fans and staff - a lot of people thought we couldn't do it. Everyone in the city, in Newcastle, thought: 'We cannot do this.' "But after these two games, I think a lot of people are now saying: 'We still can do it.' So we will see; we will see against Liverpool. It will be very difficult because we know they are doing well but we are doing well so it will be very interesting to see our reaction.

"How we manage the situation if something goes wrong. That is our problem when we go away and concede; we had a reaction against Norwich but it was still not enough. We are still Turn to Page 74 FROM BACK PAGE making mistakes. We made a big mistake the other day - Man City take a quick free-kick and they nearly scored so we've been talking about that.

"We still have to concentrate, maintain our focus."

Benitez has suggested that stand-in skipper Moussa Sissoko's revival has helped inspire his United teammates.

Cheick Tiote and Paul Dummett's returns have also been important, the Spaniard argues, as has the combination of Jamaal Lascelles and Chancel Mbemba gelling well in central defence, and Vurnon Anita filling in at right-back. …

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