Ayoze Perez’s hoping to come into his own during the run in – after a tough few months on and off the field.
Perez has scored eight times in all competition so far this season – already his highest goal tally for the goal – for the Championship leaders.
But that statistic doesn’t tell the whole story.
Perez has started only half of the club’s 32 Championship fixtures, having alternated with Mohamed Diame at No 10. The 23-year-old – who signed a new long-term contract at the club last year – has had to adjust to the pace and intensity of the division.
However, Perez, hoping for a recall against Bristol City at St James’s Park tomorrow, feels he’s improving under the guidance of Spanish countryman Rafa Benitez, who has lost leading scorer Dwight Gayle to injury.
Asked about his relationship with Benitez, Perez said: “It’s really good. We can understand each other instantly. He’s very professional, and we know what we want from each other. It’s important we have a good relationship, and I feel we have that.
“Tactically, he has shown me new things. I have felt like I have learnt new things under him. It’s a good relationship. He has taught me a lot.”
Perez craves time and space on the ball, but that’s hard to find in the frenetic Championship.
“The Championship is quite different – tougher, harder, for sure,” said Perez. “I have adapted to the league game by game. The team has done well, so that helps a lot. Physically, it’s strong, but I do feel better now.
“You have less time to find your positions, your space. Even when you find it, you have players on top of you. As a player, you have to deal with it. I always try to do my best. I feel like I’m getting better with every game.
“It helps to play more games a in a row. Maybe, I would get more confident. I’m trying to improve.”
Perez scored Newcastle’s 90th goal under Benitez in last week’s 2-2 draw against Norwich City at Carrow Road.
“I can do my job in No 9 and No 10,” said the Spain Under-21 international. “I feel comfortable in either position. I’m ready.”