(Reuters) - Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez has urged his players to be more ruthless in their final nine matches of the season as they bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
Newcastle are currently 16th in the league standings, just two points clear of the drop zone ahead of Saturday’s vital home match against 17th-placed Southampton.
“Obviously, I would like to be higher... we have a good team with a lack of experience,” Benitez told reporters on Friday.
“I think we deserved to win some games and maybe managing them in another way, the last 10-15 minutes, it could be different.
“Against Bournemouth (a 2-2 draw having been 2-0 up) we were really good going forward, Burnley was the same (late equaliser conceded), and we have to manage better this advantage.”
The weekend’s fixture will see Benitez coming up against his former player and assistant Mauricio Pellegrino after the two teams played out a 2-2 draw at St Mary’s in October.
Pellegrino played under the Spaniard at Valencia and also at Liverpool before joining his staff as a first-team coach at Anfield and Inter Milan.
“He was my player and assistant for a while and he is someone who knows me very well,” Benitez added. “It will be hard for either of us to do something that the other one is not expecting.
“When you play teams around you, even making mistakes sometimes you can win, so hopefully we can (on Saturday).”
Newcastle are hopeful Jonjo Shelvey can play a part after he returned to training but the midfielder faces a late fitness test ahead of the weekend’s game.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge