Troubleshooting Rafa Benitez is hopeful he can solve Newcastle United’s problems ahead of the Championship run-in.
The league leaders take on Birmingham City at St Andrew’s tomorrow looking to put last weekend’s error-strewn home defeat to Fulham behind them.
Third-placed Huddersfield Town could cut Newcastle’s lead to just three points with a win over Bristol City at Ashton Gate tonight.
Injury-hit Newcastle, looking for a record-beating 13th away win of the season, have struggled for consistency at St James’s Park.
And United manager Benitez, mindful that five of the club’s remaining nine fixtures are at home, has been working intensively with his players on a rare week without a midweek fixture.
“I have been saying for a while that April will be crucial,” said Benitez, who has lost defender DeAndre Yedlin to injury for five weeks and has fitness concerns over Ciaran Clark and Paul Dummett.
“It’s more clear now that we have to keep doing the things that we were doing well for a long time and then analyse each game trying to find the solutions to our problems and quickly be sure we will be ready for the next one.”
Benitez’s team looked jaded against Fulham are a run of three tough away games which yielded a remarkable seven points.
And the 56-year-old believes that his players have needed a week to recover from a demanding few weeks.
“It’s really important for us to rest and then keep working with the players,” said Benitez, whose staff have been assessing Ciaran Clark this week after the defender limped out of the Fulham game with a knock.
“Travelling away, we didn’t have too much time. We have to recover and be ready for Birmingham.”
Meanwhile, Maikel Kieftenbeld says Birmingham are “feeling good” ahead of the United game – despite a run of just two wins under Gianfranco Zolz.
Zola’s side claimed a point from a difficult fixture away to Cardiff City last weekend.
And midfielder Kieftenbeld said: “Newcastle are a really strong side and will be difficult to beat.
“But we will go into it feeling good. We needed what we showed at Cardiff, because in the game against Leeds United we played really well only to concede goals.
“Now it might not be a case of playing nice football to see, but at Cardiff we got a result. In the final stages of the season, that’s the most important thing.”