Southampton manager Ronald Koeman has told reporters that he can understand why Rafael Benitez took the Newcastle United job despite it being a "difficult" task to take on, as quoted by the Chronicle.
Koeman's Saints side host the Magpies on Saturday at St. Mary's with both clubs chasing a win for very different reasons as the Premier League season draws ever closer to a conclusion.
While the Dutchman's team are looking to close the gap on West Ham United and Manchester United in the hunt for a Europa League spot, Benitez and his players desperately need three points after the gap from safety was extended to six points with defeat at Norwich City last weekend.
However, Koeman told reporters in his pre-match press conference that he could understand why Benitez had felt attracted to the challenge at St. James' Park because of the size and importance of a club like Newcastle.
He said, as quoted by the Chronicle: "He came in when already it was difficult. It’s always difficult for a manager to change it in one or two weeks, but you don’t get time as a manager to change things as you like these days. You need wins, you need points.
"I don’t know [if Benitez's reputation could suffer]. It’s difficult to give an opinion about that because he had the talks with the club, he had the feelings with the club.
"If he thinks he can keep the team in the Premier League then of course it’s a good opportunity for a manager because we are talking about a big, important club in the Premier League. They have some good players, have spent a lot of money. I don’t know why because I am on the outside, you have to be on the inside to have the conclusion about why they are struggling."
Benitez's decision to join Newcastle raised many an eyebrow last month, with it seen by many as both a coup for the club and a surprise move for the former Liverpool, Chelsea, and Real Madrid boss.
The Spaniard has not been involved in a relegation battle since leaving Extremadura in 1999, and he has made far from the ideal start to life on Tyneside, leading the Magpies to just a single point from their first three matches.
The gap between Newcastle and safety could be extended to nine points this weekend if they lose to Koeman's side and Norwich win at freefalling Crystal Palace.