Rafa Benitez has outlined the harsh realities of life in the Championship – as Sunderland face up to their likely fate.
Newcastle United are second in the Championship with five games left to play.
It shows how difficult the division is and how difficult it is to be where we are. You have the stats. The last five years, the fifth and the fourth ... none of the teams that were relegated were promoted.Rafa Benitez
Benitez’s side take on Leeds United at St James’s Park tonight knowing they need a maximum of nine points to secure automatic promotion.
Sunderland, meanwhile, are rock bottom of the Premier League and 10 points adrift of safety.
Benitez believes his Newcastle players deserve more credit for the way they have tackled the Championship given how hard it is to return to the top flight at the first attempt.
To back up his argument, United’s manager pointed to the experiences of relegated teams over the past five years.
“It shows how difficult the division is and how difficult it is to be where we are,” said Benitez.
“You have the stats. The last five years, the fifth and the fourth ... none of the teams that were relegated were promoted.
“Three years before, just one team was promoted in the play-offs. Two years (ago), one team in the play-offs and the last year one in the play-offs and one straight (promotion).
“So that means in five years, it is proved that it is very difficult. We are in a very good position. I will say again, you see Aston Villa and Norwich.
“It’s a massive difference to have your team ready like Brighton or Sheffield Wednesday.
“I was talking with Carlos (Carvalhal) before the game. They have already the team, and they have to bring new players to fix problems.
“But when you have to change half of the squad and settle down, it means that it’s more difficult.
“Some of your players go. The players that you have are good players, but not the players at the top of the table that were making the difference.
“To put everything together and still perform at this level, you have to give credit to these players.”
Asked if United’s players deserve more credit, Benitez said: “I will say, credit to these players and credit to everyone. It’s not easy.
“You cannot ‘they were spending’. You see other teams were spending. I will not name anyone but you see one that was spending more than us. We made a profit and are in a good position. I will say that we have to give credit to the players. We have to finish our job.”