Publicly, Benitez insists he can keep Newcastle up but, privately, he is dismayed that the hours of work he has put in on the training pitch have yet to result in improved displays on the pitch.
The squad he inherited from Steve McClaren is horribly ill-balanced with glaring problems in defence and on the left flank.
While Aleksandar Mitrovic will be restored to the starting line-up against the Saints, Benitez has big decisions to make on the under-performing Gini Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko while Chancel Mbemba looks lacking any confidence.
Benitez has talked about an exciting future and will be given a hefty transfer kitty if he can somehow keep Newcastle up.
But it will be a very different story should the worst happen and if he has a decision to make between coaching Spain or embarking on an arduous Championship campaign, there can surely be only one winner.