MOUSSA Sissoko says Newcastle United are ready to tackle the biggest week of the season.
Sissoko and his team-mates face Benfica at St James’s Park in the second leg of the club’s Europa League quarter-final on Thursday night.
And that fixture is followed by Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby.
Both games are sold out, and midfield powerhouse Sissoko is relishing the challenge of driving forward at home and abroad.
The Magpies trail Benfica 3-1 from last week’s first leg at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon. But the two-goal lead isn’t insurmountable, according to the France international.
“We know this is a week that’s important for the players – but not just us, the club and the supporters,” Sissoko said. “We have a second leg that we know isn’t going to be easy.
“We know it will be an interesting match, and it’s a night that we could qualify for the semis.
“We have good motivation for us going forward.
“On Sunday, we have a pretty important derby match against Sunderland.
“Every single player is up for the match. We know exactly what it means to the fans here.
“Firstly, we must focus on Benfica.”
Papiss Cisse scored in injury time on Sunday to seal an important 1-0 win against Fulham which has eased relegation fears, and Sissoko says a never-say-die attitude will serve Newcastle well this week.
“Fulham was an example of us fighting until the end,” added the 23-year-old, signed from Toulouse in January.
“We knew in our heads that victory was all that was needed – no matter how we got it.
“It was a case of going out from minute one to minute 95, and giving our all to get that result.
“What it shows is the great team spirit we have at this club. We can go out there and get a result even in stoppage time.
“The victory now is a fantastic thing pressing on. It’s great for our morale and team spirit going forward.
“It gives us so much strength heading into the final matches of the season.”
There were some tired legs and tired minds in the United dressing room after the Fulham game.
But Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has time to regroup his players ahead of the Benfica game.
“We were tired but also happy, especially with the result,” said Sissoko. “We knew it was as an important match.
“With where we are in the Premier League, we knew we needed to go out there and get a win.”