Rafa Benitez reacts to criticism of Ayoze Perez at Newcastle
Rafa Benitez has vowed to stand by Ayoze Perez.
The forward was Newcastle United’s top Premier League scorer last season with eight goals.
But Perez has struggled for form along with many of his team-mates so far this season.
Benitez, however, is ready to stick with the 25-year-old ahead of this afternoon’s home game against Watford.
Newcastle are second-bottom of the league and without a win.
“The problem is that the team is not playing with the confidence at the end of last season,” said Benitez.
“So I think it’s something we can change winning one game and see if everybody has a boost and starts playing well with this confidence.
“Sometimes it’s just the same pass with confidence or without confidence. It’s a big difference.”
Perez has come in for criticism this season, and Benitez says the former Spain Under-21 international is aware of the “frustrations of some people”.
Benitez has vowed to “protect” Perez.
Asked if he was still confident in Perez, he said: “Ayoze understands the frustrations of some people.
“He has quality and talent and he scored eight goals, so he can do these things.
“Has to be more consistent? Has to have more pace, more ability?
“Yes, you can put a lot of things together, but, again I will say, he scored eight goals last year and is a member of our family, so we have to protect him.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle defender Ciaran Clark will miss the Watford game.
The Republic of Ireland international – who had earlier recovered from a thigh injury – was laid low by a bug earlier this week, and although he has returned to training, he’s not in the squad for the game at St James’s Park.
Fellow defender Florian Lejeune remains the only senior casualty, although he is making progress in his recovery from cruciate ligament surgery. Lejeune is stepping up his rehabilitation after returning from Italy, where he went under the knife.