Rafael Benitez believes Newcastle United’s players may show their true ability if they score the first goal against Swansea City on Saturday.
Four games into his brief reign at St James’ Park, Benitez is still awaiting his first victory and the single point he has banked to date has done little to boost hopes of Premier League survival.
However, four of the six games the Magpies have in which to rescue themselves – they are currently six points adrift of safety – will take place at St James’ Park, and Benitez is hoping the first of them against the Swans can give them the boost they need with the pressure mounting.
Benitez said: “You feel the pressure fighting for titles or trying to avoid relegation, you feel the pressure for sure. What you have to do is what we’re trying to do.
“We’re trying to be clean with our instructions, to train well. And after in football sometimes you need a little bit of luck as well. If we score the first goal, maybe we’ll see the quality of these players during the whole game.
“The only thing that I’m asking the players is that they have to give everything and finish the game without regret that they left everything there. I think everybody expects that. The fans will be behind them if they do that.”
Newcastle are without a win in seven games, a run which has seen them collect just that one point – from a 1-1 derby draw with Sunderland – and once again go into a game with an already imbalanced squad further depleted by injury.
Right-back Daryl Janmaat is the latest casualty after breaking two fingers when he punched the dressing room wall after last weekend’s dismal 3-1 defeat at Southampton.
Benitez revealed the Dutchman was prepared to play with that injury but will be ruled out anyway with a groin problem.
He said: “Because he’s injured, we can’t do anything. He’s ready to take the risk, if he has to do it, with his hand, but we still have to find a solution to his groin problem.”
One of the most crucial games in the club’s recent history coincides with Benitez’s 56th birthday, and he knows exactly how he would like to celebrate.
He said: “Hopefully they will give me three points, that will be fine and hopefully I can enjoy it at the end of the game.”