Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez sat down with the media today in his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s trip to West Ham.
The Magpies can make it three league wins in a row for the second time this season after doing so in November, at a time where they were without a win at all beforehand.
United have been in fantastic form off the back of impressive 2-0 wins over Huddersfield and Burnley to steer clear of the relegation zone.
Newcastle can also move two points behind tomorrow’s opponents who currently sit in the top half, although Benitez refused to get ahead of himself today.
The gaffer was also asked about Sean Longstaff’s nomination for the Premier League Player of the Month award for February.
Other topics included Jonjo Shelvey’s return from injury, their impressive league form and the threats that West Ham pose.
Here’s what Benitez had to say:
On Sean Longstaff
The 21-year old has been nominated for February’s Player of the Month alongside star players such as Sergio Aguero, Paul Pogba and Virgil van Dijk.
And Benitez was delighted for the midfielder and hopes he wins the award:
“We’re talking about a young player from our system not from the Premier League. He’s played well vs Chelsea and all these teams.
“You have to give him credit, not just for playing well, but the way he is handling the situation.
“I hope he wins it.
“I think he has to win it because when you compare him with the other players this is just a young lad.”
On Jonjo Shelvey
Shelvey has been pushing to return from injury for a couple of weeks but still has a little while to go.
It will be very difficult for the midfielder to replace either Isaac Hayden or Longstaff when he is fit so has asked if he could play for the Under-23s to make his mark.
“Jonjo Shelvey has asked to play for the Under-23s, so he will play with the Under-23s (against Fulham) tonight.
“It means he’s pushing in the right direction. Clark and Elliot are out but the others are available.”
On West Ham
The gaffer is wary of the threats that Saturday’s opponents can pose and the quality of players they have at their disposal.
“West Ham have very difficult players – Felipe Anderson, Arnautović, Chicharito – so they will be very dangerous.
“It will be a tough game and we have to concentrate and stay focussed. We can’t underestimate the opposition.”
On Newcastle's form
Despite the threat of relegation appearing to be ebbing away, Benitez still has his sights set on survival.
Since visiting a training camp in Spain, United have won both games and the manager believes that the trip was important.
“We knew it would be a tough season, and still it will be a tough season but we were confident we could do it after the trip to Spain.
“I think it’s quite positive because if you win everyone is happy.”
On his future
Although Benitez has still refused to be drawn into speculation on his future, he has now given a timeline of when contract talks will start.
The Spaniard will not sit down with the owner to discuss a potential new contract until Premier League survival has been confirmed.
“I understand why they want to know, but they know my plan is that the team is focused on football.
“We can get the results then we can talk about anything.
“We have the same situation – we’re not safe, our Premier League position is not guaranteed, we have to concentrate on the games and then we can talk about anything.”