Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez has called for one final push against Southampton to edge the club over the Premier League finishing line.
The sides meet at St James’ Park on Saturday evening separated by one place and two points with the Saints chasing the Magpies hard after a run of four wins in their last six games.
Benitez’s men reached his predicted tally of 38 points for safety with last Friday night’s fine 1-0 win at Leicester, but Cardiff’s 2-0 victory at Brighton on Tuesday evening shifted the goal-posts once again.
The Spaniard said: “I said 38 a long time ago, but Cardiff won a couple of games and that changed everything and now, obviously, it’s even more important for us to win another game and be sure that everything is fine and we can start thinking about how high we can go in the table.
“But the main thing is to get three points in the next one.
“It depends on us, firstly, but also Southampton, Brighton and Cardiff. It’s very tight, but I’m sure that if we win this game, that will be enough.
“We have to be sure that we don’t approach the game with complacency and that we are really, really focused, like they will be.”
The Magpies had won five home games on the trot before Crystal Palace left Tyneside with a 1-0 victory a fortnight ago on a day when Benitez’s side was made to pay for missed chances, and the 59-year-old is expecting an equally tough contest.
However, he is refusing to be distracted by the ongoing saga over his own future with his contractual situation still unresolved despite weeks of talks.
That uncertainty too is spreading to the squad with reports this week, strenuously denied by the manager, that midfielder Matt Ritchie has been told he can leave the club this summer.
In the circumstances, Benitez has told his players to concentrate solely on the mission of mathematically securing the club’s top-flight status, something they could achieve this weekend with a win if Cardiff then lose to title-chasing Liverpool on Sunday.
He said: “We know that we have to maybe win another game to be sure that everything is fine, and I want to focus on that.
“I want to be sure that we get another three points and we will be safe because I think the job is not done, so we have to carry on and concentrate on the games.”
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, meanwhile, has challenged his side to take a giant step towards Premier League safety.
The Saints head to St James’ Park five points clear of Cardiff, who breathed new life into their own survival hopes with a midweek win over Brighton.
Austrian Hasenhuttl has overseen an upward progression since taking over in early December, when the team had managed only one victory from the opening 14 league games under Mark Hughes.
Four wins out of the last six have put Hasenhuttl’s men within touching distance of securing another campaign among the elite.
The Saints boss, though, maintains everyone must stay focused for the long trip to the north east for Saturday’s 5.30pm kick off.
“Newcastle are a very good team in a fantastic stadium with a good football atmosphere. They do it very well at the moment,” Hasenhuttl said.
“They are nearly safe, but they also want to make the last steps to climb to the 40 points.
“For us it is another good challenge to show that we can compete also in away games.
“We took three points at Brighton, which was a massive game for us. Against Newcastle, we try to do it again.
“We will try to be a good balanced opponent which knows exactly what to do against a very organised team with high quality.
“It is never easy to take points there, but in the Premier League it is never easy.”