Rafa Benitez reached a Newcastle milestone at Bournemouth on Saturday, taking charge of his 38th Premier League game with the club.

Having managed the final 10 matches of the 2015-16 season, plus 28 this term, Benitez has now overseen the equivalent of a full top-flight league campaign.

And his record at the 38-game stage is a reassuring one for Newcastle, with a tally of 42 points enough to comfortably stay up in the Premier League.

There are voices in the media that sometimes like to play down Rafa’s impact at St James’ Park, but there is no doubting that he is working with a squad largely made up of Championship players.

To keep Newcastle up with this group would be a significant achievement, with even their current fine run moving Rafa’s men just two points clear of the drop zone.

The 13 points collected back in 2016 came with a very different group of players – a much stronger squad in terms of talent – but a return of three wins, four draws and three defeats was a huge improvement on what had gone before.

Rafa – now closing in on 100 games in charge and 150 goals in all competitions – continues to prove his class at every turn.

If Newcastle could even come close to stringing together the type of run that closed out that doomed relegation season – from a fairly similar fixture list – there will be scenes of celebration on Tyneside come May.

This campaign is all about getting through to the summer when there will hopefully be money to spend.

All fans recognise that and acknowledge that Benitez is the right man for the job. They will hope to see an even more impressive return from the next 38 matches, starting at Liverpool on Saturday.

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