Can Rafa Do It Again?

Last updated : 03 April 2019 By Footy Mad - Editor

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Newcastle now have it all to do if they are to repeat last season's top-10 finish but the squad's target this year was believed to be 12th place and they are in with a good shout of that.

What looks more achievable is collecting as many points as last term (44) with 35 points in the bag so far and six games left to play.

The competition for the top 10 is more intense this season and while 44 points were enough last year to scrape 10th spot on goal difference, Everton are currently occupying that position with 43 points and six games to go.

The bookmakers are now offering Newcastle odds of 50/1 to finish in the top half this season.

But Benitez is only focused on the first task in hand which is to simply stay up.

Benitez, who said it would be a "miracle" to do so earlier in the campaign, said: "I think 38 points is enough, 40 just in case.

"Hopefully it will be less.

"For us, the next game is the most important, it is one game at a time.

"We have to be sure we are focused and concentrate.

"We have to be confident when we approach the game and try to win.

"After, we will see what happens with the other teams.

"Every game will be difficult.

"I have always said that maybe the last game against Fulham could be the one that makes the difference.

"Hopefully not, but we have to keep going with that in our mind.

"We just have to believe we can get the points, that is it."

So as Huddersfield and Fulham start to come to terms with life back in the Championship, it's all about Crystal Palace at home this weekend for the Magpies.

The Eagles are in strange form after winning away at Burnley but flunking at home to Brighton then losing to Watford.

On Saturday they made hard work of beating the Terriers and Roy Hodgson said: "They tested us. So, in the end, I'm happy we got the result.

"It lifts us to 36 points which, depending on results, might be a nice buffer from the bottom three."

As Benitez and Hodgson go head to head this weekend, two of the Prem's most wily managers, you wonder if another tactical battle is about to unfold at St James' Park.