Newcastle key man reveals the Benitez tactical masterstroke that has revived survival bid

By North-east correspondent Harry Sykes

Moussa Sissoko has credited a Rafael Benitez tactical tweak with his improved performances in Newcastle’s revival.

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 last four matches because of his influence in the dressing room.

France international Sissoko has produced a series of vastly improved performances in the team’s recent run, which has revived hopes they can avoid relegation.

Newcastle have climbed out of the drop zone after taking eight points from their last four Premier League matches, although 18th-placed Sunderland are only one point behind with one match in hand.

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Sissoko has gone from being booed by the Geordie crowd, and close to being dropped, to stand-in skipper.

“I am more happy now,” he told the Mirror. “Firstly I play in my real position, central midfield. In the past I was on the right side. I was a little bit complaining to the manager saying being on the side was not my best position.

“Everyone can see it is easier for me to play better inside. Benitez is good to learn from and he gives me responsibility and he believes in me, and that is why there was a difference.

“The boos were not difficult to take because in football you have good and bad moments.

“When you are one of the best players in the team people want to see the best of you.

“This time I was not in the best moment, I understand why the fans were a little bit angry. Now they are happy. This is football. You try your best and see what happens.”

The attacking midfielder has started 35 of Newcastle’s 36 league matches this season but the 35-times capped France international has scored only one goal, although he 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.