Newcastle Club Focus – Europe rivals go head-to-head

Newcastle face Liverpool at the weekend with the opportunity to cement their grip on a place in the top six of the league. Eight points currently separate the two sides in the table with the same number of games left to play in the season. It remains to be seen whether sixth place will be enough to secure a place in the Europa League next season although the Magpies hopes were boosted by the results from the midweek FA Cup replays. Although Liverpool have already qualified for Europe by virtue of winning the League Cup they can still do Newcastle a massive favour by beating Everton in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

Newcastle’s chances have been damaged by the loss of influential defender Fabricio Coloccini for the next couple of games. The Argentine limped off against West Brom with a hamstring problem although the problem is not as bad as first feared and he may return in two games time. In the meantime the club must cope with a lack of back-up in central defence. The most likely candidates to play together in the next few games are Mike Williamson and James Perch. The signs were not exactly promising against West Brom but at least the pair can work on their partnership in training this week. Newcastle fans will be hoping that Perch can keep up his rejuvenation since the turn of the year.

It may be a case of attack being the best form of defence against the Reds on Sunday given Coloccini’s absence. The team produced some of their best football of the season against West Brom and they will need to carry it on against Liverpool. The game will see two former fans favourites return to the club’s ground for the first time since their departures last year. Jose Enrique and Andy Carroll are both likely to be afforded red-hot receptions and have enjoyed contrasting fortunes on Merseyside. While the pair were both key players during their time with the club, on current form they do not appear to have been missed too much.

Manager Alan Pardew is already starting to plan for next season as he looks to bridge the gap further between the top sides in the country. Only five points currently separate the Magpies from the top four although there is a strong feeling the club is not yet ready for a Champions League campaign. However given the budget constrictions Pardew has been working under they are already well ahead of schedule. Speaking to the Northern Echo newspaper he said: “You have to try to move forward. We’re trying to compete with teams that have got twice our budget, twice our wage bill, huge investment in their team. We’ve got to try to bridge that gap sometimes looking a little left-field in terms of the transfer market.” So far the club’s scouting system has come up trumps time and again and will need to find further gems in the summer ahead.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Newcastle v Liverpool

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