Claude Puel has declared Newcastle United safe from relegation.
Speaking on Thursday afternoon, the Leicester boss was full of admiration for the job Rafa Benitez has done.
Newcastle travel on Saturday in 12th place, with 35 points and still 21 to play for.
Claude Puel saying it is ‘always difficult’ to get instant promotion back to the Premier League and then compete but that Rafa has done ‘a great job’.
The Foxes boss also believes that now having put distance between themselves and the drop zone, Newcastle ‘can play with freedom’ against Leicester.
That Rafa’s team ‘can play with confidence, a good mentality.’
One thing for sure is that Rafa Benitez will be insisting his players play right through to the end of the season.
For professional pride and to make Newcastle look as desirable a destination for players as possible as well as the fact that every place in the table is worth an extra £1.9m in prize money, which could potentially be available to the NUFC boss in the transfer market.
Claude Puel pre-Newcastle press conference:
“Matty James will have surgery on his Achilles tendon.
“He will not be available for the rest of this season.
“The nomination [for March Manager of the Month] is always about results and consistency.
“I would like it if we can have a reward for the whole squad.
“I think Newcastle are clear [or relegation fears] now.
“They are safe in the Premier League and that’s fantastic for Newcastle. They can play with freedom against us.
“I think Rafa Benitez made a great job all of the season.
“It’s always difficult for a team to go down to the Championship and come back up one season after.
“Newcastle are safe in the Premier League. They can play with confidence, a good mentality and without pressure.
“I think he [Leicester owner] is ambitious. That’s normal. He always keeps a good relationship without putting bad pressure on the team. All of the people feel the ambition and this is normal.”