Rafael Benitez has put Newcastle on red alert to take advantage if Manchester City allow themselves to be distracted by their forthcoming Champions League showdown with Real Madrid.
City travel to St James’ Park on Tuesday evening for a rescheduled Premier League clash with the Magpies and then entertain Stoke on Saturday before the Spanish aristocrats arrive at the Etihad Stadium next week for the first leg of their European semi-final showdown.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini has already had to contend with the circus surrounding the impending arrival of successor Pep Guardiola, and Benitez is hoping the Chilean’s players have other things on their minds as Newcastle look to drag themselves out of the drop zone.
He said: “I’m sure Pellegrini will try to do that (keep them focused), but in the back of your head, you are thinking the semi-final is massive, to be in the final and have the opportunity to win the final, so imagine if you pick up an injury or have any problem, so I think the players will be thinking about that – hopefully, a lot of them.
“But they are professionals and will try to win. They are in a good position now in the Premier League and they will want to stay higher. But in the back of their head, for sure, will be the doubt that if they pick up an injury, they cannot play in the semi-final or final.”
Newcastle rekindled their hopes of avoiding the drop with a 3-0 victory over Swansea on Saturday, but they know that was only a start with three points still separating them from safety with five games remaining.
Benitez said: “The main thing is that if we believe, like we did from the first minute to the last against Swansea, then we can beat anyone.
“Obviously, City are a great team and it will be very difficult, but we have nothing to lose at the moment. If we can do well, we will have more confidence and if we get three points, we will have even more belief, so we are trying to do that.”
To get anything out of the game, Newcastle will have to find a way to stop the in-form Sergio Aguero, who plundered five goals in the reverse fixture, a 6-1 City win.
Benitez said: “Sergio is a great player. He is doing really well. Hopefully he can score a lot of goals – but in the Champions League, not the league.”