Newcastle are not far away, insists Benitez

Rafael Benitez feels Newcastle United only need small tweaks to survive this season after a narrow loss to leaders Leicester City.

Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez does not think his new team are too far away from getting positive results after they went down to a narrow 1-0 defeat at Leicester City on Monday.

Shinji Okazaki's first-half overhead kick proved decisive at the King Power Stadium as the visitors suffered their sixth loss in seven matches to remain second-bottom of the Premier League.

Benitez only has nine games left to save Newcastle from relegation, but he saw plenty of positives in the defeat to the leaders that he can take into Sunday's critical derby against rivals Sunderland.

"I think it was a pity," he told Sky Sports. "We started really well and had two good chances. After 20 minutes they started pushing and they scored and played the game they like to play on the counter-attack.

"I wasn't happy with the goal because there were too many balls bouncing in the box, but I would like to think about the positives. We reacted well and were pushing well.

"I thought that we could get a result and I was convinced we could do it. We could have scored a goal against a very good team who were playing at a very high tempo

"Their tempo is not easy for any team - especially one near the bottom – and I will take the positives. We reacted well, you could see the passion in the players. 

"We had a good team spirit, everything was there and we just have to change little things. We cannot change this result but at least we can be happy in terms of the commitment of the players.

"There were a lot of positives and the team showed that they are convinced they can win. Every game will be important for us now."

Benitez called on the fans to be with Newcastle for the derby at St James' Park and spoke fondly of the reaction he has received since taking over from the sacked Steve McClaren last Friday. 

He added: "We know our next game against Sunderland is a derby and it will be important for everyone but I have a feeling the fans are really good and they are the number 12 for the next game. 

"We have plenty of things to do and they need to rest and then work hard to prepare. I like that the people, the staff, the fans, the city and everyone is behind the team. 

"Everything is positive, but now we have to give them what they want on the pitch." 

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