Rafael Benitez has told his Newcastle United side to make the most of any wayward play on the part of a Manchester City side distracted by dreams of Champions League glory when the clubs meet on Tuesday.
Newcastle, still in the relegation zone despite last week’s morale-boosting 3-0 win over Swansea, will look to climb out of the bottom three against a City side who could be forgiven for having one eye on next week’s Champions League semi-final, first leg against Real Madrid.
Although Manuel Pellegrini’s men are bidding for a top-four finish in the Premier League, former Real manager Benitez hopes their impending appointment with the Spanish giants will play to Newcastle’s advantage.
“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,” said Benitez, sacked by Real earlier this season.
“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,” the Newcastle manager added.
“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 are still three points shy of safety with five games remaining but Benitez, brought in after the club sacked former England manager Steve McClaren, believes they can beat the drop so long as they maintain their self-confidence.
“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.”