Rafa Benitez has given misfiring striker Aleksandar Mitrovic a vote of confidence on the eve of the Tyne-Wear derby, writes Miles Starforth.
Relegation-threatened Newcastle United have struggled for goals all season.
And Mitrovic, has found it hard to shoulder the club’s goalscoring burden in his first season in English football.
The striker led the line in Benitez’s first game in charge – Monday night’s 1-0 defeat to Premier League leaders Leicester City – but he didn’t threaten the goal.
But Benitez – who has Papiss Cisse back from injury – has hinted that he will keep faith with the £14million signing for tomorrow’s game against Sunderland.
“When I was watching games on the TV, I could see that he has great potential,” said manager Benitez.
“After training with him, he’s working very hard. I can see he’s a young player with great potential, working very hard.
“He can score goals, and again I will go back to the confidence speech. The team needs more confidence.”
The challenge for Benitez – who succeeded sacked head coach Steve McClaren at the club eight days ago – is to get the right ‘help’ to Mitrovic, who has scored five goals so far this season.
And Benitez intends to build from the back at Newcastle.
“The team needs to improve in defence,” said the Spaniard.
“If you do that, maybe you will improve in attack because you will regain the ball, you will have more possession and then you can create chances and score goals.
“For strikers, it depends on the team.
“But he knows what he has to do, and we are trying to tell the people around him what he’s capable of doing, so they can try and help him.”