Rafa Benitez focused on keeping Newcastle United up – with the view of bigger things

Rafa Benitez.

Rafa Benitez.

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Rafa Benitez says the only way is up for Newcastle United – if he can stop the club going down.

Rafa Benitez says the only way is up for Newcastle United – if he can stop the club going down.

Benitez will take charge of the team for the first time tonight.

Newcastle take on Premier League leaders Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.

Benitez, appointed the club’s new manager last week, has 10 games to keep the club in the division.

The 55-year-old is reluctant to look beyond United’s relegation run-in given that it has won just six league games all season.

But Champions League-winner Benitez – who started the season as Real Madrid manager and previously managed Liverpool and Chelsea in the English top flight – feels the club, which hasn’t won a major trophy since 1969, will only get bigger if he can beat the drop and stay up.

Asked what he would have said if somebody had told him last summer he would be Newcastle manager, Benitez said: “If I am like I am now, convinced, I would be delighted, why not?

“I am someone that analyses things in a certain way.

“The teams in the Premier League are so big and they will be even bigger. So when you see a team like Newcastle, with all the potential, you say ‘we can improve things, we can be very big’.

“So I can do it, and I am convinced that I can do it. But, to do that, I need to concentrate on these 10 games.”

Newcastle haven’t competed in the Champions League for well over a decade.

Asked if that competition was realistic target in the longer-term, Benitez added: “Don’t push me!

“I said before, I think we are one of the important teams in the Premier League, but we have to stay in the Premier League.”