Benitez tells Magpies to focus

Newcastle United head coach Rafa Benitez has warned his players against losing focus before his side are certain of securing their Premier League status for another season.

The Magpies are seven points clear of the drop zone ahead of their clash with Southampton on Saturday and Benitez does not want uncertainty about the futures of both himself and some of his squad to get in the way of his preparations.

He told reporters: "I just concentrate on preparing the team and preparing for the next game.

"I have to try to keep the players focused – that is the difficult thing because everyone has their own future ahead and they are thinking about different things.

"We have to manage different players in different ways, but the only thing you can do is make sure you train well and explain things the best you can.

"My concern, when I was reading different stories about players, is that we are losing focus. We still need to win another game.

"We need to make sure we are safe and then, after that, if people start to lose focus, okay. But at the moment, we have to be sure we can get another three points."

Benitez only has two major injury absentees for the meeting with the Saints at St James' Park, with Florian Lejeune and Sean Longstaff (both knee) both long-term absentees.

The meeting of the two sides on the South Coast earlier this season ended goalless and another 0-0 draw on Saturday is priced at 13/2, with a 1-0 Newcastle victory available at 13/2, while the hosts are 13/8 to keep a clean sheet.

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Lemina poised to boost Saints

Southampton midfielder Mario Lemina is expected to finally return to action after injury in at least one of the Saints next three games within a week.

The 25-year-old Gabon international has not featured since the turn of the year, undergoing surgery on an abdominal problem late on in January.

However, Saints head coach Ralph Hasenhuttl expects to have the former Juventus man back in the fold for the Premier League trips to Newcastle United and Watford, on Saturday and Tuesday respectively, before Southampton end the week with a visit from Bournemouth.

The Austrian told his club's official website: "Mario made a big step forward in the week. He's trained with the team and looks much better now – that's good for him and good for us.

"We know we have an intense week with three games, so it will be nice if we have one more option in this position.

"I have spoken about it and I am sure he will play (at least) one more game this season. The chances are big because now he is training with the team, so maybe his injury has come to an end."

Saints go into the busy Easter programme of games on the back of a run of form which has seen them win four of their last six Premier League games, a return which has lifted them five points clear of the relegation places.

They can be backed at 11/5 to gain a draw at Newcastle on Saturday, with a 1-1 final scoreline priced at 11/2, while the Magpies are 13/2 to edge a 1-0 victory on home turf.

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Benitez confirms new deal talks

Rafael Benitez hinted after watching his Newcastle United side win 1-0 at Leicester City on Friday that he is set to extend his stay on Tyneside.

Ayoze Perez scored the only goal of the match in the first half with a header from Matt Ritchie's excellent cross.

The victory means Newcastle are 10 points clear of the bottom three although Benitez insists his team are not yet safe from relegation.

The former Liverpool and Chelsea manager, who is out of contract at the end of the season, said after the King Power Stadium clash: "We have been talking about it behind closed doors but we didn't want to talk about it in public because we wanted to keep the players focused on the games.

"Now we are closer it may be easier but there is still the same situation so we have to be sure we do the right things.

"We're not safe yet. I think we are closer but we have to see what happens. We have to be careful.

"For me, 38 points was the mark that you could be safe but Cardiff have won some games so we will see. We are closer and we are confident that could be enough."

Meanwhile, Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers was not too despondent, despite seeing his side's four-match winning run come to an end.

He said: "We found it difficult to break them down but the players gave everything."

Newcastle are 13/10 to beat Southampton next Saturday and 13/8 to keep a clean sheet against Saints.

Benitez seeks new talent

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez says that he is on the lookout for new players to push his side further up the Premier League table.

Newcastle travel to Leicester on Friday night with their position in the top flight still not secure.

They lost at home to Crystal Palace last weekend and go to the King Power Stadium with a seven-point gap between themselves and third bottom Cardiff City.

A win at Leicester could well be enough to guarantee their survival but whatever their status next season, questions remain over Benitez's own future as manager and his freedom to sign quality players to bolster the squad.

At a press conference ahead of the trip to Leicester, Benitez would not comment on his own future but, amid speculation that he will only be allowed to sign younger players in the future, he stressed the aim was to recruit quality.

Looking back on his time in charge of Napoli he said: "The president Aurelio De Laurentiis had ambition and he wanted to improve. He wanted to go to Europe and be there every year.

"They have guaranteed in the last four years to be in Europe – either in the Europa League or the Champions League.

"That means when you have the potential you can do that. You can see the potential here. That is what you are looking for."

Newcastle are 9/2 to win on Friday night and move further away from the bottom three while Leicester are 8/11 with the draw 14/5.

Benitez admitted to the press conference that his side needed points to be sure of avoiding relegation but said he was confident that they would have their future assured before their game against Fulham on the final day of the season.

Newcastle have been hit by the news that Florian Lejeune will miss the rest of the campaign after injuring his knee against Crystal Palace but Benitez said the rest of the squad were available with Mo Diame fit again.

Newcastle are 50/1 to be relegated at the end of the season while they are priced at 150/1 to finish in the top half of the Premier League table.

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Injury ends Lejeune’s season

Newcastle United will be without defender Florian Lejeune for the rest of the season after he suffered a serious knee injury against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The Frenchman had to leave the pitch on a stretcher after sustaining the injury following a challenge with Palace winger Andros Townsend.

"Lejeune has been ruled out for the remainder of the current season and further updates on his recovery will be provided in due course," Newcastle said on their official website.

The 27-year-old missed the start of the campaign after sustaining an injury to his right knee in pre-season.

Meanwhile, Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez refused to talk about whether he would be signing a new contract with the club after the 1-0 defeat to the Eagles at St James' Park.

"We had control of an important game and we could have got three points and we could be talking [about the contract], because we're safe," he said.

"But now we have to carry on and think every game is another final. I don't want to talk about my contract.

"I think we did enough to deserve three points. We had chances and, although we knew they would be dangerous on the counter-attack, we had control of the game. We made a mistake and we paid for that."

The only goal of the game was scored by Luka Milivojevic from the penalty spot after DeAndre Yedlin had brought down Wilfried Zaha.

Newcastle are 17/4 to win their next match against Leicester City on Friday and 14/1 to win the game 1-0.

Hodgson warns against let-up

Crystal Palace head coach Roy Hodgson says he and his players will take nothing for granted until Premier League survival is assured for yet another season.

The Eagles head to Tyneside on Saturday to take on a Newcastle United outfit who are one point and one place worse off than their visitors, with both sides one more win away from almost certainly ensuring their top-flight status.

However, Hodgson has warned his players not to show any let-up in effort, especially against a Magpies side who have won their last five home league games.

He told reporters: "It is a fact of life that staying in the Premier League is the goal.

"We know it will be a fight to achieve it, we aren't taking anything for granted. We are fighting for every point.

"We realise we need more points and we also realise we are going to be coming up against strong teams. But we (also) know on the days when we produce our best football we are a match for any team.

"We will be entering our seventh successive season in the Premier League if we achieve our goal – it's an impressive achievement."

Earlier this season the meeting of the two sides at Selhurst Park ended in a goalless draw, while the clash at St James' Park last season finished 1-0 to the hosts.

A draw on Saturday afternoon is priced at 9/4, with a 1-1 final scoreline available at 11/2, while another 1-0 win for Newcastle is a 7/1 shot.

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Benitez reveals safety target

Rafael Benitez is confident that one more win for Newcastle should guarantee their Premier League survival this season.

The Magpies boss was speaking after his side were comfortably defeated 2-0 against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Monday with Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette scoring the goals for the Gunners.

Newcastle managed just one shot on target throughout the game as they struggled against an Arsenal side which jumped up to third place on the back of their win.

The result leaves them on 35 points – seven clear of the relegation places – with six games remaining, including matches against Southampton, Brighton and Fulham who are all below them in the table.

And, while Benitez refused to be too downbeat after the Arsenal defeat, he was hopeful that his side were now in touching distance of securing another season in the top flight.

He said: "We played against a good team and were fine for a while in the first half. We could avoid their goal, it was a little bit lucky.

"We had situations on the counter attack where we could be more dangerous but we didn't do it. The last 10 minutes they had chances to score but until the second goal we were pushing. It is a shame because you could feel the atmosphere was getting nervous.

"When you play top sides away it can be a mistake which makes the difference. In the end it was a mistake and we must learn from this and be ready for the next one.

"I think 38 points is enough [to stay up], 40 just in case. Hopefully it will be less."

Newcastle could take another huge step towards safety when they host Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The Magpies are 7/5 to win, while the Eagles are priced at 2/1 and the draw is 11/5.

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Benitez eyes top-half finish

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez has set his players the target of finishing in the Premier League's top-10 again this season.

Five home victories in a row have virtually banished any relegation fears for the Magpies, who are 17/4 to draw at Arsenal on Monday.

Newcastle finished 10th last season and on course to replicate that feat this term – they have the same number of points after 31 matches as they had at the same stage of the 2017/18 campaign.

Benitez said: "If we do well, we can finish 10th again if we do more or less the same between now and the end of the season.

"At the moment, we are fine and I have read some players talking about that [finishing 10th], so we will see if we are safe enough, where we can go.

"We have to do exactly the same, try to get points in every game. At least we have this feeling of confidence because we are doing well. The team are doing a lot of things with more confidence and we have more chances and then we are more of a threat in attack.

"Why? Because the players know each other much better, they know exactly what we are trying to do."

Salomon Rondon is 3/1 to score at any time on Monday for a Newcastle side that are 15/2 to beat the Gunners.

Ramsey making good progress

Unai Emery is optimistic that Aaron Ramsey will have recovered from a thigh injury in time to play for Arsenal against Newcastle United on Monday.

Ramsey was forced to withdraw from the Wales squad for their games against Trinidad and Tobago and Slovakia earlier this month.

Gunners boss Emery also remains hopeful that Granit Xhaka and Dinos Mavropanos will be fit enough to feature against the Magpies.

Emery, who has been with the Arsenal players that were not on international duty at a training camp in Dubai, said: "Aaron Ramsey and Dinos Mavropanos should be okay and ready for Monday.

"The first previews from the doctor's analysis on Xhaka is that he can be okay to play on Monday.

"In this international break we decided to go away to train for four days and play a match in Dubai.

"Denis Suarez is doing well. I think he is okay for starting in the first 11 or for giving us this impact after. But I think now, our focus is collectively very strongly focused on helping in 90 minutes, or 50 minutes, or one minute. We are going to need every player for the next matches.

"Monday's match is going to be very difficult. Newcastle are in a good moment. They have a lot good players and good organisation. The coach has a lot of experience and he is very competitive and I know that."

Arsenal, 4/7 to finish in the top four this season, can be backed at 4/11 to beat Newcastle on Monday.

Perez hints at Newcastle exit

Ayoze Perez has indicated that he is thinking about ending his five-year spell with Newcastle United and returning to Spain.

The 25-year-old moved to Tyneside from Tenerife in the summer of 2014 and has scored 36 goals in 172 league matches for the club.

He has found the net six times in the top-flight this season including a brace in this month's dramatic 3-2 victory against Everton.

However, Perez has hinted that it could be time for a new challenge, saying: "I believe in cycles. I think there is a moment where you plan things, to undergo a change and, I think, after five years, I think it's the moment.

"To go back to your country and play for a big team and enjoy La Liga would be something great for my career.

"My first year at Newcastle was complicated. I left young, leaving the Spanish second division directly to England.

"At the start there was interest from Porto, then Barcelona and Real Madrid academies but there was the option of Newcastle and that was my top interest. To play in the Premier League was my dream. The way of life is different from Spain, that's clear, but the league is worth it.

"To live it, enjoy it and compete in it, and I think that's why I have stayed there so long."

Newcastle are 17/2 to win at Arsenal on Monday with Perez 7/2 To Score at Any Time in the game.