Ayoze Perez reflects on a remarkable transformation at Newcastle under Rafa Benitez

Ayoze Perez says a very different Newcastle United side will be visiting the King Power Stadium.
Ayoze Perez celebrates his goal against Huddersfield with KenedyAyoze Perez celebrates his goal against Huddersfield with Kenedy
Ayoze Perez celebrates his goal against Huddersfield with Kenedy

Rafa Benitez’s first game in charge just over two years ago was away to Leicester City.

A goal from Shinji Okazaki gave the home side, which was heading for the Premier League title, a 1-0 win.

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Newcastle were heading for relegation, but they were promoted at the first attempt.

And Perez – who scored United’s winner against Huddersfield Town last weekend – believes the club has taken huge strides under the guidance of Benitez.

“A lot of things have changed in those two years, and you can see the difference in the situation,” said the forward.

“I would say that back then we probably had a better squad. We had a lot of very good players, but in the end we were relegated.

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“This season is different, and a lot of that is down to him. Since he came, he has been massive for all of us.

“We try our best in every game and play as a team. That’s it, really. I think we are picking up what we deserve.

“There are still seven games to play, and (Leicester) will be another important game for us. We have to take forward everything we have done and focus on what we still have to do.

“We need to try and keep climbing – that’s our main target. Its’ what we have to do.”

Newcastle have had to be mentally strong this season.

“Mentally, we’re in a very good place at the moment,” said 24-year-old Perez.

“I think we’ve got better at that through the season in terms of being patient and keeping our focus in games.”