DeAndre Yedlin says Newcastle United are ready for three of the biggest games of the season.
Rafa Benitez’s side are 15th in the Premier League – and a point clear of the relegation zone – after Wednesday night’s 1-0 home defeat to runaway leaders Manchester City.
Saturday’s home game against Brighton and Hove Albion is followed by fixtures against Stoke City on New Year’s Day and Swansea City at St James’s Park on January 13.
Brighton, Stoke and Swansea are also in the bottom half of the table.
And defender Yedlin said: “The next three league games are very important.
“The season isn’t going to be decided by what happens when we play against Man City – it’s going to be decided by what happens in the matches like the next three games.
“We’re playing against the teams that are close to us now, and they’re all six-point games. We have to be very focused and make sure our preparation is right.
“I’m sure the lads will be up for it, and we’re all excited about the challenge.”
Newcastle ended a nine-game run without a win last weekend when they beat West Ham United 3-2 at the London Stadium.
“It was a good performance at West Ham that got us going again,” said Yedlin.
“We generated a bit of momentum by winning down there, and I don’t think that has disappeared just because we lost by one goal to Manchester City.
“It gave us a bit of momentum and confidence to win again, but that’s in the past now and we have to look forward.
“We have to go out on the field this weekend and show what that win has done for us.”
Benitez’s cautious tactics against City drew criticism from TV pundits Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville.
United’s manager set up his team in a 5-4-1 formation, and much of the first half was played in their own half.
However, Newcastle stayed in the game and were pushing for an equaliser in the last quarter of an hour.
Yedlin, for his part, is keen to get forward against Brighton, promoted with United last season.
“Hopefully, I get on the front foot a bit more this weekend,” said the 24-year-old “It wasn’t really the way I enjoy playing (against Man City), but sometimes you have to do that, and I’m going to do whatever I have to do to help the team.
“If that means sitting back and just defending the whole game, that’s what I’m going to try to do. The gameplan was a good one, but the weekend’s game will obviously be different.
“Rafa has a lot of experience and will come up with his approach, and we’ll be doing everything we can to try to execute it.”
Raheem Sterling claimed all three points for City with a 31st-minute goal. For all their pressure, Pep Guardiola’s side couldn’t add to their advantage.
“The game plan was to try to sit back, and hopefully catch them on the break,” said Yedlin. “Obviously, we know they’ve lined up against a lot of teams and scored a lot of goals.
“We thought if we could stay in the game for the majority of the game, then maybe we could have nicked one at the end.
“That was the game plan, and we came pretty close. We had our chances at the end, but obviously it just didn’t fall for us.
“They’re a great team – you can’t argue with that – and you have to give them credit where it’s due.
“All over the pitch, they have world-class players, so it’s obviously hard to play against. But you have to manage the game and do what you can to play against a team like that. I thought the boys put in a pretty good effort.
“It didn’t end in the result we wanted it to, but I thought for the most part we put in a good effort and gave it our all.
“We want to win every game. We wanted to win the game against Man City, and that doesn’t change. We’re going to come back on Saturday and try to get three points in front of our fans. Then we’ll focus on Stoke.”
Yedlin was a key figure for United in the Championship last season, and the USA international, on balance, believes it has been a good year for the club.
“I think it’s been a good 12 months,” said Yedlin. “There have been some highs and lows along the way, but we have to be pretty pleased with a lot of what we’ve achieved this year.
“We’ve got one more game to go, and it would be good to end the year with a win against Brighton.
“That would be the ideal way to head into 2018, and hopefully we’ll be going into the New Year with a win under our belt and a little bit higher in the table.”