RAFA BENITEZ wants everyone connected with Newcastle United to stay together to boost the battle to stay in the Premier League even though his side’s home form is driving him mad.

The Magpies boss has been perplexed by aspects of his team’s displays at St James’ Park this season, knowing that they have never made a worse start to a campaign on home turf in the top four divisions.

Newcastle have still only won two of their 11 league games this season at St James’ Park, scoring just seven times in those, which is a huge factor in Benitez’s side sitting third from bottom at this stage of the campaign.

And with Cardiff City, the team sitting a place above them, due on Tyneside this afternoon, Benitez knows now is the best time to win at St James’ for the first time since the back-to-back victories over Watford and Bournemouth in November.

He said: “You remember last year, we did well at home.

"We won some games and when you talk about the past, for sure, when you have very good players and are on top of teams and you're attacking, you can create chances and you have good players up front you can make the difference.

“I was not happy with the games against Watford and Bournemouth when we won, I was more pleased with Manchester United and Brighton, when we lost. We were lucky enough to take the chances we had, and they did not.”

Given the position that newly-promoted Cardiff find themselves as they arrive in the North-East, there is sure to be a high amount of pressure in the stands and on the playing surface when the first whistle is blown this afternoon.

Benitez said: “Hopefully we can score goals and the fans will be happy. That's it. It's the solution for everything to play well and score goals and try to win games. When we won against Manchester United last year we were in a difficult situation. 

“The fans were behind the team because we did well. These players - they care. And the fans understand that and the majority of the fans support these players for that.

"Can you have everybody on board? It’s very difficult, because people want to win. 

“Some people don't see the big picture, but the majority of the fans understand that our position is not the same as other teams and that is the reason why we have to compete in another level.

“We don’t need them just this game, every single game at home we need them. The fans away travel and are happy, they go to enjoy themselves and that’s easier. 

“At home the 52,000 it’s even more important because you can feel what it means for us and the other team. 

"They can be crucial, they have been crucial – in the promotion and last year. They can be crucial now. This group of players, they care, they work hard. They make mistakes like me but we try our best and the fans appreciate that.”

But there is no getting away from the fact that this afternoon’s visit of Neil Warnock’s well organised and tenacious Bluebirds carries extra significance at the bottom end of the table.

Benitez said: "Yes, it's a big game, just as Huddersfield was a big one, or Fulham was a big one.  "I think Fulham for example was 'massive'. Some people have said: 'This is the most important game of the season.'

"Then after Fulham we were winning against Watford, Fulham were drawing and Cardiff were drawing, so we could have been eight points clear of the bottom three. 

"Is this an important game? Yes, for sure it's really important. But will it be the most important game of the season? Maybe it will be Huddersfield. Maybe it will be Fulham, the last game of the season.

"We have to carry on, we have to stay calm; and to stay calm does not mean we won't fight. We will fight until the end, but you have to fight every single game. If we win, I don't need to say too much. If you cannot, then you have to carry on.”

Staying calm has been the message of Benitez for weeks and that is exactly what he will be reiterating to players again this afternoon – and he wants the fans to follow that lead too.

He said: “You want to win because you have 52,000 fans behind you. But I was clear with my message: Cardiff City will come and will say, ‘We have to be strong at the beginning and the fans will get on top of the players’. That is very clear, it was the same in the Championship. 

The Northern Echo:

“We have to support these players. They care. They can be good or bad, but they still care. If we stick together they will feel the confidence from the fans and will be better. Maybe one game can make the difference and we can stay up. Maybe that will be Cardiff.”