Newcastle midfielder Moussa Sissoko revealed the Magpies squad were surprised Rafael Benitez joined the club – but believes they have a better chance of survival under him than Steve McClaren.
Former Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid boss Benitez lost his first game in charge on Monday as Newcastle went down 1-0 at Leicester.
It left them a point from safety in the Premier League ahead of Sunday’s crucial north-east derby with Sunderland, who sit just above the bottom three.
Benitez replaced the sacked Steve McClaren on Friday and Sissoko knows the Spaniard has put his reputation on the line for them.
He said: “Yes, we were surprised to see him come to Newcastle because normally he is playing for the title and Champions League.
“We were all happy and now we have nine games left. He will bring his experience and we can be in the Premier League next season with him.
“He worked with Madrid, Liverpool, some very good teams. We need to listen to what he says because he is one of the best managers in the world. We need to follow him.”
And, despite Monday’s loss after Shinji Okazaki’s stunning winner, Sissoko feels Benitez gives the Magpies a greater chance of survival.
He said: “Yes of course, when you look at the squad we are a good team. It was the start with the new manager, we did well but the result wasn’t good. We have some positives.
“I believe in my team-mates, manager, everyone and we are a good team. We will stay in the Premier League.
“He believes we will stay in the Premier League, we have to work hard every game and start to win on Sunday.”
Sissoko on Sunderland clash
Victory at home to Sunderland on Sunday would lift them above the Black Cats and Sissoko admitted a win could hold the key to securing safety.
The Frenchman added: “Every derby is a big game, we are in the bottom three and have nine games left and we need to win. It will be crucial for us.”