RAFAEL BENITEZ is set for further talks with Newcastle United to determine what the future holds after a week that has seen a breakthrough in discussions having had a fresh round with managing director Lee Charnley.

The Magpies will head into this evening’s meeting with title chasing Liverpool at St James’ Park knowing that as things stand it could yet prove to be the Spaniard’s final home game in charge.

Benitez’s three-year contract will expire on June 30 and it has taken until now for him to even suggest there has been a degree of progress made in his contract talks.

It is likely that he will not officially commit to an extension until he has had guarantees from the club’s owner, Mike Ashley, and the manager’s representatives hope to have a meeting with him sooner rather than later.

But Benitez was certainly hinting that the chances of him staying on Tyneside had improved since the draw at Brighton last weekend.

"The fact we had that conversation was progress,” said Benitez, who was then asked if there had been a breakthrough, and he responded with: “Yes. It was positive because Lee he knows what I'm talking about and what I think.  “And I know what they think. So at least we can now move forward. It's not more or less confident, but it's more positive, because at least we're talking now.”

Those answers during his pre-match press conference followed on from his initial comments after he admitted to the broadcast media that there had been “positive talks” with Charnley.

He said: “I was talking with Lee Charnley this week and we will let you know when there is more news. We will continue talking. It was positive.

“We will let you know. I understand you will ask me, and I will be asked again. At least we have been talking and we can move forward a little bit.

“I can say ‘yes’ it seems that things are moving forward, we will see if things are right. We have this conversation. I don’t want to be rude, but we have been talking about it and we will let you know.”

Benitez’s admission is sure to hearten the Newcastle fans ahead of a game when the supporters will let him know how much they want him to stay after preserving Premier League status.

Winning a relegation fight is no longer enough for Benitez after his three years at Newcastle, though, and that is why he is wants to hear that Ashley is willing to back him in terms of the investment in the squad and the club’s infrastructure.  He said: "I know what they want the fans, we have the same feeling. They're happy when they see us positive creating chances and winning games. They want that and I want that.  “To achieve that depends on how you can compete against the other teams. We can't forget that the teams in the middle of the table are spending £100m, and we're competing at this level.  “It's very difficult because you then have to maximise what you have. Sometimes you can't get more from some players but you can have an injury and sometimes you go back to square one.”

But Benitez is certainly relaxed and pleased going into the Liverpool test. He said: "I'm very happy because to get to this stage of the season with the team safe having done what we've done is positive. You try to do things and to be consistent in a certain way.  “I'd like to play 3-4-3 and attack all the time but you have to maximise what you have and I think we've done well. The players appreciate that and they're progressing. They're doing a lot of good things. I can see that still we can do better.”

Benitez side-stepped the issue of whether there will be an announcement on his future any time soon, and then followed that up with: “I have had the conversation and Lee said we will organise a meeting (with Ashley). We will let you know.”

Newcastle need to address Benitez’s future so they can then start to plot a way forward on transfer plans, outgoings and incomings.  Midfielder Mo Diame is somebody else who is out of contract this summer and if he starts the final two games then he will trigger a clause that will hand him an extension.  Benitez said: “I told you, it was not an easy one. I was talking with him a few weeks ago about something to do with his state of mind and what he was thinking. I knew exactly what he was thinking, if he can play, if he has to play, he will play.  “If he is a player who has Isaac Hayden playing well, Ki Sung-Yeung or Jonjo Shelvey, he is not a player who will maybe have a future. It is something you have to discuss with the player and that is it. He is fine, he can play, will he start, I don’t think so.”