Rafa Benitez claims his Newcastle side need a “miracle” to avoid being dragged into a Premier League relegation battle.
The Magpies secured a top-half finish during their first season back among English football’s elite in 2017-18.
The current campaign is proving to be a bit trickier, though, with more transfer frustration leaving Benitez to make the best of what he has.
He is concerned that may not be enough, with a side currently perched five points above the drop zone already looking anxiously over their shoulder.
Benitez said: "We have to be realistic and understand that we will be in the bottom half during the whole season.
"For me, it is almost clear and if we can be better than three teams, it will be another miracle.
"It was a miracle last year. People were thinking, 'Oh, you finished 10th...', but with a couple fewer wins, we could have been in the bottom five, so it was a miracle.
"If we do the same this year with teams spending even more money than last year, it will be a miracle."
Things are not about to get any easier for Newcastle as their next outing is set to hand Benitez a reunion with his former employers at Liverpool on Boxing Day.
They will then wrap up the calendar year away at Watford, before opening 2019 at home to Manchester United.
The January transfer window will be open by then but, with Mike Ashley still looking to find a buyer for the Magpies, Benitez is not expecting to receive much backing in the winter market.
He added: "I know what is coming now and I know where we are. You can see the team - the team is trying a lot of things, but still it's not enough sometimes to get the points, and it will be like that.
"If we are under pressure and we feel this pressure, we will not be better, we can make more mistakes.
"I'm trying to tell everyone, realise where we are, realise what we have to do and if we do well, fine, we can finish 10th or whatever.
"But if we think we have to beat these teams which have spent £100 million, every one of them, during the summer, if we think we can beat them easily every game, no chance. We are wrong, 100 per cent."