After emphatically beating Southampton at St James’ Park in their last competitive fixture, Newcastle have eight Premier League matches remaining to reach the 40-point mark that Rafa Benitez feels will guarantee survival.
“I would say around 40 but maybe it could be less. I think 40 is the minimum, the guarantee to stay up,” he told Sky Sports News at the weekend.
United are currently 13th in the table on 32 points and four above the bottom three meaning a point-per-game ratio would be required to reach Benitez’s target. But the likelihood of all eight games ending in a draw is remote, and it’s conceivable that the Magpies boss will set his players the objective of acquiring those eight points from the four home matches left to play
Newcastle are unbeaten in all five games at St James’ Park in 2018 with Huddersfield, Arsenal, West Brom and Chelsea are all still scheduled to visit Tyneside in the next two months, providing ample opportunity for Benitez and his players to control their top flight destiny on familiar ground.
Benitez has engineered a miraculous turnaround on home turf since the turn of the year, generating a positive momentum that is crucial at this stage of the campaign. And the manner in which his players dispatched relegation rivals Southampton should indicate the core approach the Spaniard will adopt in those four cup finals – starting with the visit of Huddersfield visit on March 31.