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 By PA Sport

Rafa Benitez urges Newcastle United to keep their winning run going

Rafa Benitez has challenged his Newcastle players to continue to confound their critics.

The Magpies headed into the weekend fourth in the table after recording three successive top-flight victories for the first time since 2014 and travel to Brighton, promoted alongside them last season, on Sunday.

Benitez said that although he knew tougher times would come, he was urging his players to "keep going, keep working hard and we will have more chances to get points every game."

He said: "If you said: 'Are you happy to be the surprise or to be at the bottom?' I'd rather be the surprise.

"We want to win and stay there and then you will be talking about the Champions League and all these things.

"We are realistic -- we know it's a question of time before we lose some games. But if we can delay that as much as we can, it will be fine.

"Keeping the momentum, keeping the good spirit, I think we can compete against anyone. And then it's football, you never know."

Newcastle's encouraging start has increased optimism that the club can avoid a return to the Championship despite a relatively low-key summer recruitment drive.

Benitez said: "Forty points is a guarantee that you will stay up, but I'm not thinking too much about that, believe me. I am thinking about the next win, the next game.

"If we can win, another three points; if we cannot, we carry on to the next one."

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