RAFAEL BENITEZ wants Newcastle United to recover from the lapses in defensive concentration that proved costly at Liverpool by going on the offensive in the next two home dates to give the fight for Premier League survival a huge lift.

For all of the Magpies’ team spirit and work-rate, they have continued to struggle to deliver the victories consistently enough to keep them out of trouble.

Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Liverpool means they have only won one out of their last six matches. That run, despite losing just one of those, has left Newcastle with just the two point cushion separating them from the bottom three.

Only Southampton, who they face at St James’ Park this Saturday, separate them from the relegation zone, so the visit of the Saints to Tyneside will carry huge significance in the battle to avoid the drop next weekend.

Then Huddersfield, after a 21-day break, will be the next on the agenda in a similarly significant fixture at the wrong end of the table and Benitez knows they will have to play differently to how he set the team up at Anfield.

“It’s obvious those are different teams, different scenarios,” said Benitez. “So it’s not the same when you play away against one of the top teams in the Premier League than when you play at home against one of the teams in your position more or less.

“The game at Liverpool was just to make sure we had good control and then play counter attack. We were not a real threat in the first half but we were controlling the game so they didn’t have clear chances, just at the end a corner situation – nothing else.

“We were happy with that but we were still not very happy [overall] because we have to create more. Obviously Southampton will be different. We play at home with our fans behind us. We have to attack and we have to create chances. Obviously every game is important to us but these types of games against the teams close to us we have to do well.”

With the extended three week break on the horizon, because of a Tottenham’s FA Cup involvement, puts greater onus on Newcastle’s game with Southampton.

A failure to win that game could see them in deeper trouble by the time the Huddersfield fixture comes around on March 31 and then there will only be seven remaining matches after that.

Benitez is determined not to lose his game-to-game focus though. He said: “Every game is important so if you win now everyone says, ‘Fantastic,’ and we have more confidence.

“Maybe you can approach the next games with more confidence and you win more. But if you can’t win you can still win at the end. You can win the last game and be safe.

"Every game is an opportunity and nothing else. You cannot think about the potential gap. We have the Tottenham game postponed so it’s one less game. We have to go against Southampton, take three points and if not stay calm and carry on until the end.”

The fact that Liverpool secured three points was all that mattered in the end on Saturday, but Benitez’s tactical plan did restrict the free-scoring Reds to just three shots on target – two of which were scored either side of half-time by Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Not many teams have gone to Anfield this season and been able to keep Liverpool at bay in such numbers and it highlighted how Benitez’s defensive masterplan worked for long periods.  He set up with five at the back and a tight four-man midfield, with Dwight Gayle operating on his own up front. At the end of the first half Mo Diame forced Loris Karius into a fine save that would have made things a lot different.  Benitez said: “Three shots on target, I was surprised. We wanted to be strong in defence and create more in counter attack. We couldn’t do it, why? Because we have a very good team in front of us.  “We got into some good positions and we were running full pace but still we couldn’t beat them. When you pay money you pay money not just because of their technical ability. It’s the quality, the decisions and the physicality. Everything that is the difference between teams.

“To come here to try to get points, it doesn’t matter which teams are coming up or who you face, you have to win games.  “We were playing one of the best sides in England, the money in the Premier League is a massive difference, you have seen one of the best teams in the Premier League, for 40 minutes we controlled things defensively, the team but you can’t make mistakes or you pay for it normally.

“Southampton will be dangerous, they are struggling but they are a very good team, Huddersfield are very dangerous, it doesn’t matter that you are home. Every game will be difficult. We have to show the same organisation we showed in the first half.”

While the majority of people would have expected Liverpool to win at Anfield, the defeat could have been a lot worse had referee Graham Scott sent Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles off in stoppage-time.

With the last attack of the game Salah was played in behind the defence and last-man Lascelles appeared to trip the Egyptian when was faced with just Martin Dubravka to beat at the Kop end.

The referee and his assistant didn’t even award a free-kick when there is every chance a red card could have come out and he would have been suspended for this week’s important meeting with Southampton. There was also a penalty shout involving the same two players at the same end that got waved away moments earlier.

Benitez said: “One was just tackling and he kicked the ball. The other was pushing a little bit but not too much to be fair. You can decide from your point of view and Jurgen Klopp will say this or that but it wasn’t very clear watching the replays so maybe the referee has the same issue …”

Asked if it is a relief that he has Lascelles available, the Newcastle boss said: “He’s not suspended so it doesn’t matter. We lost the game, I don’t have any issues. I can’t talk about if …”

Benitez, who had six years with Liverpool when he helped them win the Champions League in 2005, was back at Anfield for the third time as manager and there was a point when he had both sets of supporters singing his name.

He said: “On a personal level I was really pleased with our fans and the Liverpool fans, they were good for me but still we didn’t get the points. I am happy but not happy about the result.”

Benitez has already admitted that he is exploring ways of adding a friendly to Newcastle's March schedule because of the time off his players are pencilled in to have. Overseas is a possibility but he appears to have ruled out the prospect of facing cash-strapped North-East neighbours Hartlepool, which has been floated as an idea.

He said: “We are analysing a friendly but we haven’t made a decision. It’s not easy to find the right teams, you need a team that can at least give you a match where your fitness levels needs to be."