Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez has ordered his players not to get carried away as they head into a pre-Christmas programme that could make or break their Premier League campaign.
The Magpies jumped to 13th place in the table after their third straight win at Burnley on Monday night, and Saturday’s game with West Ham is the latest in a series of fixtures against their fellow strugglers.
Despite an evident change for the better in the mood around St James’s Park, Benitez is keen to keep his players’ feet firmly on the ground.
He said: “I have been very clear with the players that we have done nothing yet – we have to make sure we keep playing with the same intensity and attitude and mentality.
“Every game is really important but obviously if you are close to some teams, if you can beat them and get the three points then it becomes even more important.
“At the moment it is very important to to be sure our players and fans understand so everybody has got to stay in the same place and continue to push together.”
Manuel Pellegrini’s side travel north on the same number of points as the Magpies but arguably saddled with greater expectation having spent in excess of £100million in the summer.
And despite a frustratingly inconsistent campaign with saw them draw with Huddersfield before being thumped by Manchester City in the last two games, Benitez is guarding against the evident star quality at their disposal.
“They have some very good players who can make the difference,” added Benitez. “Maybe you cannot see it for 80 minutes then in one minute they can change the game, so we have to make sure our players are aware of that.”
The Magpies’ move up the table has come at the same time as an improvement on the injury front with only defender Paul Dummett a definite absentee for the visit of the Hammers.
Dummett is back in training after a hamstring strain and will not be risked, but the biggest issue for Benitez is whether to shuffle his pack with the likes of captain Jamaal Lascelles eager to return.
“I have a problem to decide the squad because I have almost everybody available,” admitted Benitez. “But we have too many games in December, so maybe you need one player for one game but you need to have options.”
Those options could yet swell in the January transfer window, with Benitez rumoured to be pursuing striker Miguel Almiron as well as more cover in the left-back role.
“We don’t talk about the transfer window,” said Benitez. “(But) everybody knows we are looking for options (at left-back) and the other positions depend on whether you can find the right player.”