Former Real boss Benitez primed for do-or-die derby with Newcastle
Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez is urging his team to ignite their survival drive with derby victory over Sunderland.
The Magpies entertain the Black Cats on Sunday knowing their very existence in the Barclays Premier League, and the Â£100million share of the new broadcasting deal which comes with it, are at stake with just nine games of an intensely difficult campaign remaining.
However, Benitez believes a win over their arch-rivals could give them just the impetus they need to drag themselves out of trouble.
The Spaniard said: "I'm sure if we can win this game, then we will see the reaction of the team. They will believe and that can help, for sure.
"The position in the table of both teams means it is not just the derby. It is the derby and then you can maybe be out of the bottom three, so for everyone here, it is so important.
"But at the same time, I have to manage the expectations in terms of if we do well, what will happen. There are still a lot of games to play, so we have to concentrate on this one and after, the next one."
Newcastle lost the last four games of Steve McClaren's reign and have taken just eight points from the 39 they have contested since their 2-1 victory at Tottenham on December 13, and that has left them in 19th place and a point from safety.
They have succumbed to their neighbors on the last six occasions that the teams have met, and an extension of that record this weekend could have dire consequences.
Benitez said: "We know every game is important in our position, but especially this one, for us, for the fans, for the club.
"For the situation of both teams in the table, it's quite important, so we are preparing in every training session as well as we can and hopefully we can be ready for the game."
The 55-year-old, who has warned his players not to expect any unscheduled days off, has been boosted by the return to training of central defender Chancel Mbemba, out since February 3 with an ankle problem, and striker Papiss Cisse.
Steven Taylor is a doubt with a knock and skipper Fabricio Coloccini is yet to resume after a calf strain.