By North-east correspondent Harry Sykes

Rafa Benitez has revealed that the data available to the Newcastle coaching staff shows that Moussa Sissoko is “always” one of the team’s best players.

Sissoko has been heavily criticised for his performances this season and been tipped for a move in the summer regardless of whether the team get relegated.

But Benitez has given his backing to the 26-year-old, making him captain for the 3-0 win over Swansea on Saturday because of his influence in the dressing room.

France international Sissoko produced a vastly improved performance and scored the all-important second goal to put Newcastle on the road to victory.

Benitez is hoping the  Frenchman can be equally influential in Tuesday’s clash against Manchester City at St James’ Park.

“Before the (Swansea) game, I asked for a goal from him and he went and scored,” explained the Newcastle manager to the official club website. “I’m really pleased for him and hopefully it will be the first of a lot.

“He can be a really positive player for the team and to play as well as he played the other day and to score a goal is massive for him and really pleasing for me.

“I chose Moussa (as captain) because he was training really well and, for me, he’s a player who has a lot of influence of the French players and the rest of the team because he always trains well.

“After the game we get to see all of the data and information and he’s always the best or one of the best.

“It’s good for the rest of the team to see someone working so hard in every session and playing at a high level in the game.”

The attacking midfielder has started 32 of Newcastle’s 33 league matches this season but his strike on Saturday was his first goal of the season.

It is a poor return for a player with 35 caps for France, although Sissoko has chipped in with five assists in the competition.

In other Newcastle news, club legend Alan Shearer has given his verdict on Twitter of the results of the Newcastle and Sunderland games.