NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United are embracing the challenge of qualifying for the Champions League and will play without fear in their final four games of the season to consolidate a top-four spot, manager Eddie Howe said today.
Newcastle, who have not qualified for the Champions League in 20 years, currently sit third – two points ahead of Manchester United and three points above Liverpool, who have played a game more.
When asked if Newcastle have the toughest run-in at the end of the season with Howe’s side set to play relegation-threatened Leeds United and Leicester City, Brighton & Hove Albion and Chelsea, he said they had no reason to fear any of the teams.
“It’s very difficult on paper to ever look at a set of fixtures and predict what’s going to happen. I think all Premier League fixtures, when you look at them on paper, are difficult,” Howe told reporters ahead of Saturday’s trip to Elland Road.
“We just have to do our thing, try and get more results. We’re capable of doing it regardless of who we play. It’s going to be in our hands, in our control, not the other teams. That’s the most powerful way to look at it.
“On paper every game is worth something, both teams have something to play for … We’re going to try and embrace that challenge and attack it rather than fear anything, we’ve got no reason to fear any team.”
However, Newcastle will be without Sean Longstaff, amid concerns he may have damaged ligaments in his foot, while Matt Ritchie is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
“He (Longstaff) went to see a specialist. There were a few concerns that there was maybe some sort of structural damage in his foot,” Howe said.
“It’s slightly unclear when he’ll be back, but it’s not a long-term issue at all. It’s whether we can get him back before the end of the season.
“He’s a high-level player and he’s got a really good football brain, so we’ve missed those qualities that he has.”