Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez has issued a warning to his players to be at their best if they have to avoid a defeat when they face Liverpool on March 3.
The Tyneside club was forced to settle for a 2-2 draw in their last league tie against AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on February 24. Former Crystal Palace forward Dwight Gayle gave Newcastle an early lead before extending it by scoring the second goal of the match before the break.
However, Eddie Howe saw his men bounce back with goals from Adam Smith and Dan Gosling in the final quarter of the match. Newcastle's defensive mistakes allowed Bournemouth to make a comeback and settle for a point at home, despite dominating the majority of the 90 minutes.
The former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager was unhappy with his side losing focus that allowed Bournemouth to score twice on Saturday. Benitez stressed that his side would be punished if Newcastle repeat the same mistakes when they visit Anfield to face Jurgen Klopp's side.
"When we go there [to Anfield], we just have to play like we did for 70 minutes at Bournemouth," Benitez said, according to the Chronicle.
"Hopefully, we will take the positives and the team will do the same things they did for most of the game.
"You are talking about teams [like Liverpool] who have players who can make the difference, and you cannot lose your concentration, even for one second because you pay for that.
"We were doing well on the counterattack [against Bournemouth], but we had a couple of chances and you have to score. After that, we made mistakes.
"The first goal was very easy for them, and for the second goal, it was another cross and they had two players free in the box."
The Magpies are 15th in the table with 29 points after 28 games, two points above the drop zone. The three teams behind them — Southampton, Crystal Palace and Swansea City — have 27 points each, and a victory in their next fixture for all the three teams and a defeat for Newcastle will see Benitez's side drop to the relegation zone.
Benitez stressed the importance of avoiding the dropping of points in the remaining 10 matches of this season.
"It is very tight down there, and every moment is important. We have been working so hard for the whole of the season, and there have been a few games now where we were very close to winning, but we drew or we lost. That is not fair, but it is the way that it is," he said.
"That is why it is so important when you are playing a game like this, and you are winning 2-0, that you manage the situation and make sure you win. It is a pity we couldn't do that, but this is what we have.
"You have to give credit to our players because they are working so hard, but sometimes things like this can happen and you have to deal with it well."