boss Rafael Benitez will make no apologies for shutting up shop as he attempts to put the brakes on the Manchester City juggernaut.

The reigning champions arrive at St James’ Park on Tuesday evening desperate to rein in current leaders Liverpool with Benitez’s men perched precariously just above the relegation zone.

They do so with the clouds hanging over Tyneside darkening by the day with Benitez’s exasperation at the club’s flawed transfer policy threatening to hamper another survival mission.

However, the Spaniard insists his only focus is the City game and the prospect of trying to protect the best goal difference among the bottom six.

He said: “Last year, we said that one point could make the difference. This year is exactly the same.

“It makes no sense to have a go and lose 6-1 and be happy with that because we had a go, or lose 9-0. You cannot do that because it’s really bad for the confidence of your players.

“Each one is managing the team that he has. Depending on the characteristics of your players and the level of your players, you manage.

“If your players are much better than the other team, you will attack, for sure. I have been with top sides where we were attacking and we were scoring goals.

“But at the same time, balance is the key and this group of players when they do what they have to do and when they work hard like they have, we are quite strong and we are quite solid.

“Then, sometimes we can win, sometimes we cannot, but you cannot complain about what they do. They try their best, we try our best and if I make mistakes, we have more chances to lose; if I am right, we have more chances to get points and then stay up.”

The Magpies have not managed to gain a single point in eight attempts against top six sides so far this season, although only Liverpool have beaten them comprehensively, and Benitez sees no reason to adopt a different approach this time around.

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He said: “The way that we play against these teams, we have scored goals against some of them and other teams who have been very offensive and playing expansive football, they haven’t scored.

“It’s a question of balance. We have to keep this balance, create more chances and be more clinical, and my players know that.”

Press Association

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