Ayoze Perez’s upbeat assessment of Newcastle United’s prospects under Rafa Benitez

Ayoze Perez
Ayoze Perez

Ayoze Perez has sounded a rallying call ahead of Newcastle United’s visit to Anfield – and challenged the team to claim a historic win.

Rafa Benitez’s second-bottom side take on Liverpool tomorrow knowing a win would take them out of the Premier League’s relegation zone.

We know we are not doing well away from home but we have a big chance on Saturday against a big team.

Ayoze Perez

The club hasn’t won a league game at Anfield in 22 years.

But Perez and his team-mates have taken confidence from their performance against Manchester City at St James’s Park on Tuesday night ahead of Benitez’s return to Liverpool, the club he once guided to a memorable Champions League success.

Newcastle drew 1-1 against Manuel Pellegrini’s side, whose goal was shown to be offside by TV replays.

Vurnon Anita levelled for United, and the club is now just two points behind 17th-placed Norwich City, who are not in action this weekend.

Perez – who was recalled to the starting XI for the City game by Rafa Benitez – feels the team, which beat Swansea City 3-0 last weekend, is now playing as a “unit”.

“After Saturday, we got more confident,” said Perez, who has scored six goals this season.

“It’s important for us. We know what to do and we work together as a unit.

“We showed some passion and we fought. It was a good point for us.

“We know where we are going, but when we play this way we can beat anyone.

“This is the way, definitely. We have to keep working in this way.”

Newcastle, however, have lost their last 10 away games in all competitions, with their last victory on their travels having come on December 13 when they beat title-challenging Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at White Hart Lane.

United’s final away game this season is the May 7 visit to already-relegated Aston Villa.

And Perez believes Newcastle can put that dismal run behind them and take six points from the two fixtures.

“We have to win these two away games,” said the 22-year-old.

“We know we are not doing well away from home but we have a big chance on Saturday against a big team.

“We are closer. We know that we have to win this game. It’s really important for us.”

Meanwhile, United midfielder Cheick Tiote won praise for his performance against City.

Tiote, signed from FC Twente in the summer of 2010, has struggled for form and fitness in recent seasons, and he came close to leaving the club earlier this year

But proposed a move to Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua broke down – and Tiote has since knuckled down at St James’s Park.

The 29-year-old was dominant and disciplined against a visiting midfield which included Yaya Toure.

And the tough-tackling Ivory Coast international has vowed to give everything in the final weeks of the campaign to keep the club in the Premier League.

“When you play, you need to enjoy yourself, but also work hard in the right way,” said Tiote, who has a year left on his United deal.

“I was just doing my job, just doing my best to help the team stay in the Premier League.

“That is what we are all doing – working together and doing everything we can to have a good end to the season.

“I think it was a good point.

“We would have preferred to win, but we weren’t able to, so we will take the one point and focus on building on it at Liverpool on Saturday.

“Before the game, there probably weren’t many people outside who thought we could get anything, but we knew we could.

“We conceded a poor goal. Right then, we didn’t know it was offside, we were just angry at conceding.

“But we put it out of our minds and tried to come back into the game as soon as possible. We didn’t let our heads go down.

“We kept working hard and scored a great goal.

“We then pushed and pushed for a second, we created some good chances, but we couldn’t take them.

“We played together as a team, we worked hard and that is what we have to do until the end of the season if we want to stay up.”

Tiote feels Benitez’s tactical acumen is starting to show on the pitch.

Newcastle struggled at both ends of the pitch under Steve McClaren, Benitez’s predecessor.

But Tiote feels the team, under the hugely-experienced Benitez, is starting to look more “compact” after an intensive few weeks of work on the training pitch at the club’s Benton HQ.

Asked about Benitez’s impact at Newcastle since his appointment last month, Tiote added: “It is good.

“We do a lot of tactic work, and you can see that in our performances.

“We didn’t give them many chances.

“We are compact as a team, and if we continue like that, we have a chance to stay in the Premier League.

“If we play like (that), I think we have a good chance.”