HIT 'EM FOR SIX; Newcastle. V Manchester United PREMIER LEAGUE SUNDAY, KO 2.15PM; Rafa Used to Relish His Gone Eight Home Games Pressure to Finally Beat a Battles with Jose. Now He's without a Win and Is under Premier League Top Dog

The Mirror (London, England), February 9, 2018 | Go to article overview

HIT 'EM FOR SIX; Newcastle. V Manchester United PREMIER LEAGUE SUNDAY, KO 2.15PM; Rafa Used to Relish His Gone Eight Home Games Pressure to Finally Beat a Battles with Jose. Now He's without a Win and Is under Premier League Top Dog


Byline: SIMON BIRD

RAFA BENITEZ is battling to stop a double humiliation as he searches for a formula to revive Newcastle.

The Geordies need a victory against Manchester United to avoid equalling their worst winless home run for 19 years.

Former boss Ruud Gullit led Newcastle to nine home games without a win in 1999 before being sacked.

And Benitez - who once revelled in combat against the elite - has yet to see his side win against top-six opposition this season.

They have gathered only one point from seven games against Manchester City, United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs, and also lost in the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge.

Benitez is under pressure to deliver a have-a-go show against Jose Mourinho after several dour, keep-the-score-down games against top opponents. Benitez has set Newcastle up to be tight and defensive against the top sides this season.

They have stayed in some games until late, but had only 25-30 per cent of the possession.

Those tactics have kept the score down, but lowly rivals have taken a different approach and had a go.

Goal difference may be a factor, but Benitez said: "I think we will need 40 points. Why? Because you can see teams winning, losing or drawing. I think three or four teams will be below 40 - so 40, for me, is a guarantee.

"We can fight against a lot of them. If you stay calm and do things properly, you will maybe have more chances.

"When we were here two years ago, we had Norwich, Sunderland and us ( fighting to avoid relegation). One of the three would go down.

"In this case, you have six or seven teams. They are close, I wouldn't say struggling. We were only in the relegation zone a couple of times. It's because there's one level here and then the others (the top six) are there."

Newcastle are currently a point from safety and Benitez is sure he can guide Toon to survival.

Only three points separate 12th from second bottom - and the Spaniard says that makes it an open fight.

Newcastle have not won since October 21 against Crystal Palace and that could stretch to nine games at the weekend. …

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