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Benitez optimistic about Newcastle pulling off escape act

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By Reuters
Benitez optimistic about Newcastle pulling off escape act
Britain Soccer Football - Wolverhampton Wanderers v Newcastle United - Sky Bet Championship - Molineux - 11/2/17 Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Ed Sykes Livepic   -   Copyright  Ed Sykes(Reuters)

(Reuters) – Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez is refusing to be downbeat about his side’s struggles and remains convinced that they can turn their season around despite being bottom of the Premier League without a win.

The Magpies make the long journey to Southampton on Saturday looking to bring an end to their worst ever start to a top-flight league campaign with two points from nine games.

Off-field troubles including a perceived lack of investment in the squad have also cast a cloud over St James’ Park this year. The situation was not helped by a 1-0 defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion in front of their own fans last weekend.

However, Benitez was confident his team could avoid a second relegation in three years.

“I am realistic and optimistic. Why am I realistic? Because I know it’s a difficult situation. Why am I optimistic? Because we have been in this situation, we did well and we did it last year. Last year we finished 10th,” he told reporters on Friday.

“The good thing for us is we have experience and we know how to manage these things. The bad thing is that this club has been in this situation for a while. Hopefully we can stay in the Premier League and think about the future.”

“We are so close to being out of the bottom three and winning our first game,” Benitez added.

The Spanish coach met club owner Mike Ashley after the Brighton loss and insisted it was not a showdown about his future on Tyneside but merely “a normal conversation”.

He did, however, add that work was going on behind the scenes to target reinforcements in the January transfer window.

“We are working on that,” Benitez said. “The main thing for now is to focus on the next game and try to get three points. The scouting department are working really hard.”

Benitez may be able to call on one of his close season recruitments at St Mary’s with Venezuelan striker Salomon Rondon available after missing the past three matches with a thigh problem.

Southampton have no injury concerns as they aim for their first home win of the season.

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge; Editing by David Stamp)