Rafael Benitez wants his Newcastle players to avoid looking at the Barclays Premier League table after giving themselves a fighting chance of surviving relegation.
The Magpies remain deep in trouble and two points from safety with four games remaining, but a 1-1 draw with Champions League semi-finalists Manchester City on Tuesday evening closed the gap to rivals Sunderland and 17th-placed Norwich.
However, as he attempts to plot former club Liverpool’s downfall on his return to Anfield on Saturday, Benitez has warned his players to think no further ahead than the final whistle there.
The 56-year-old said: “For us, it’s just don’t look at the table too much, it’s just concentrating on the next game, that’s it. If you are doing numbers, you are wasting time.
“You have to try to get three points in the next one, then approach the others with the same idea and see where you are after the last game.”
1 – Vurnon Anita has scored his first Premier League goal since March 2014, ending a run of 53 games without one. Rarity.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 19, 2016
Newcastle would have edged themselves out of the drop zone had they managed to take three points against City, and they came mightily close on a night when their performance underlined just how much they have under-achieved this season.
They fell behind to the 100th goal of Sergio Aguero’s 147-game Premier League career, albeit one which should have been ruled out for offside, but hit back to level through Vurnon Anita and got desperately close to a last-gasp winner from substitute Georginio Wijnaldum.
Benitez said: “To see the team with this belief, this fight, you have to be optimistic for the rest of the games.”