AYOZE PEREZ says Newcastle United have to draw a line under their stuttering start to the season, and ensure their fortunes improve now they are taking on sides outside the established big six.

The Magpies find themselves in 19th position in the wake of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Arsenal, with only goal difference keeping them ahead of basement boys Burnley.

Rafael Benitez’s side have picked up just one point from their opening five games, but four of those matches have pitted them against Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal, all of whom are involved in European competition this week.

The early-season schedule could hardly have been tougher, and while Newcastle are still to claim their first win of the campaign, their performances have been reasonably solid.

That said, though, there is clearly a pressing need to get points on the board, and the next two weekends should provide a much clearer picture of where the Magpies find themselves after a summer of strife.

Newcastle head to Crystal Palace on Saturday before hosting Leicester City seven days later, and Perez admits it is imperative there is a return to winning ways before he and his team-mates head to Old Trafford for their final game before the next international break.

“Everyone has to play against the top sides, but now we’ve got to think about the next game,” said the Spaniard, who played the full 90 minutes as Newcastle were beaten at the weekend. “Our season starts now.

“We have to know where we are and where we want to be. It’s the same situation as we were in last season, and this is the moment to start getting points.

“The team is doing well most of the time. Sometimes, there is a lack of concentration, and I think that can make a difference. Now, we are playing against teams who are in our league and there will be more chances to get points.”

Newcastle have remained competitive in all of this season’s games, and the main positive from their losing run is that they have not been beaten by more than a one-goal margin.

That suggests a certain durability, but Benitez’s side still have to prove they are capable of taking the game to their opponents on the front foot. Goals and chances have been at a premium in their league games to date, and it will be interesting to see how Newcastle react in their next two matches if they start to see more of the ball.

Salomon Rondon is likely to return to the starting line-up at Selhurst Park, having been an unused substitute at the weekend, with Jonjo Shelvey also expected to replace Isaac Hayden at the heart of midfield.

That should increase Newcastle’s creativity levels, and while you have to go back to Ruud Gullit’s ill-fated start to the 1999-2000 season to find the last time the Magpies had such a poor return after their opening five games, there is no sense of panic from either the players or Benitez.

“It’s way too early (to be worried),” said Perez. “It’s September and there is still a long way until the finish. It’s true that the fixture list didn’t help us, but we are where we are.

“It’s not a good situation, but it’s time to keep working. We know we’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of improvements to make. There is still a long way to go - we have to keep going, and we have to do more than we are.

“We all know it hasn’t been a good schedule for ourselves, and (the latest defeat) was against another top side. In the first half I thought we could get points against Arsenal, but we didn’t. We have to stick together and keep working as we have been. That’s it. The points will come.”

Last season, Newcastle finished in the top half of the table, but it wasn’t all plain sailing as there was a run of games between late October and mid-December where they failed to win in nine successive outings.

That saw them tumble nine places down the table, and they were in the bottom three before they won at West Ham in their final game before Christmas. The win at the London Stadium sparked a marked improvement in the second half of the season, and Perez sees no reason why a positive result cannot have a similarly transformative impact this term.

“One of the most difficult things in football is to keep at a good level when you know you’re in a bad run,” he said. “You cannot give up. You cannot think, ‘We are done’ or anything like that. There is still a long way to go, a lot of points still to play for.

“We have many opportunities and a little bit of an advantage in terms of playing so many top sides. There is now a chance to go up against teams in our own league and get some points.

“We have to be calm and think about the mistakes we’re making - and we’re making a lot sometimes - and make sure we fix them. We will be better now we are playing against the teams around us. We have to make sure we get points.”