AYOZE PEREZ admits Newcastle United have to end their lengthening winless run when they tackle back-to-back home games with Leicester City and Everton if they are not to find themselves embroiled in the thick of the battle to avoid the bottom three.

Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Chelsea made it six games in a row without a victory, a sequence that has led to increased concerns about the Magpies’ ability to stave off the threat of the drop.

Everton and Stoke climbed above Newcastle at the weekend, and while Rafael Benitez’s side are five points clear of Crystal Palace, who currently fill the final relegation place, their form over the last month or so is a major cause of concern.

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Losing to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United is hardly a disaster, but United have also failed to beat Burnley, Bournemouth, Watford and West Brom since they last recorded a victory.

They now find themselves preparing for successive home games, with Leicester due to visit Gallowgate on Saturday and Everton set to provide the opposition four days later. Neither game will be easy – Leicester beat Tottenham and Burnley last week, while Everton have made an instant improvement under new boss Sam Allardyce – but Perez accepts it is essential Newcastle get back to winning ways before they head to Arsenal and West Ham in their final games before Christmas.

“We have to get a win now,” said the Spaniard, who has started the Magpies’ last two matches. “We started the season pretty well and that has helped us with our league position, but we have gone too long without winning a game and we have to put that right.

“We are at home for our next match, and we have to make the most of that and get three points. We can’t keep saying we are still okay in the table.

“This is the moment to start turning things around and get back to having the winning feeling again. We need to get back to picking up points. It doesn’t really matter how we are playing, that is the most important thing, and it has to start from now. We have two home games coming up, and we have to make the most of them. We need the points, and we have to win.”

There was always an acknowledgment within the Newcastle squad that there would be tough times in the wake of last season’s title triumph, and there is no sense of alarm despite results in the last six games.

In some respects, the Magpies’ excellent start to the season is counting against them as it ratcheted up expectation levels in some quarters, but the players have always attempted to retain an even keel and remain convinced things will turn provided they continue to adhere to Benitez’s instructions.

That said, though, the next two games looks crucial in terms of establishing the narrative for the second half of the season.

“We knew there might be periods like this, but it has gone on too long now,” said Perez. “When we were winning, we knew a bad moment could come because it is a tough league. We just came up from the Championship, so we knew it would not be easy, especially when we are playing against the very top sides.

“We knew there would be difficult times, and that is what is happening now. It is not a good moment for the team with the way things have been going, and we have to put that right now.

“There is no panic. There is still a long way to go. It is not such a bad situation that we have to say we are panicking, but we have to realise that we have to start winning now otherwise it is going to get very tough for us.”

The return of two or three injured players might help, and Benitez will spend the next few days closely monitoring the fitness of Paul Dummett, Christian Atsu and Jamaal Lascelles, all of whom have missed the last four matches.

At this stage, Dummett and Atsu have the best chance of facing Leicester, although given Newcastle’s defensive struggles at both the Hawthorns and Stamford Bridge this week, it is Lascelles’ return that could be most crucial.

“They are all getting closer, but we will have to see on Tuesday how they feel,” said Benitez, who was booed as he returned to Stamford Bridge following his brief, rancorous spell in charge of Chelsea. “They are getting better, but I don’t know (whether they will be available for Saturday).

“We will see this week. Atsu was very close (to playing at Chelsea), and Dummett was very close too. Jamaal was better, but we will see how he feels during the week.”