Newcastle United hold this advantage in Champions League race amid ‘difficult’ Man Utd claim
The Sky Sports pundits assessed the race for a top four spot in the aftermath of the Magpies win at Nottingham Forest.
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The likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have all featured in European competition over the course of the season. However, the Magpies have enjoyed the benefit of focusing solely on domestic competition and their workload was further reduced by an early exit from the FA Cup after a shock defeat at League One title contenders Sheffield Wednesday.
United did progress into the Carabao Cup Final before a 2-0 defeat against Manchester United ended any thoughts of silverware and Howe revealed the Wembley loss had impacted on his players ahead of Friday’s win over Nottingham Forest.
Carragher admitted he was surprised to hear the Magpies boss make that suggestion but he insisted he will have to get used to a more hectic fixture list if his side continue their improvement throughout the remainder of the season and beyond.
He said: “When I heard Eddie Howe say that, they know if it has or hasn’t (had an impact) and you have to believe them, but they are going to have to get used to that. They’ve had no European football this season, so to get as far as they did in one cup competition, they went out early in the FA Cup, now that is what is going to happen in the next few years. They are going to be in European competitions, they’d expect to go further in cup competitions as well, so they’ll have to get used to that.
“It has been an advantage for them, no European football, but more often the same players are out there and what really impresses me is their running power. When you watch them it feels like they outrun the opposition and I was just watching the midfield tonight, against a man-to-man marking system from Forest, but every time a midfielder was running they were trying to pull them back. They couldn’t cope with them and every time I watch Newcastle it feels like you’re playing an intense team.”
Newcastle will spend time in Dubai as Howe oversees a warm weather training camp during the upcoming international break. The Magpies will put their full focus on a key clash against Manchester United upon their return to Premier League action in a game that could be pivotal in the race for a top four place.
Former Manchester United full-back Gary Neville believes his old club will still pip the Magpies to a place in the Champions League but insisted Howe’s side were ‘hitting form at the right time’ after claiming maximum points from games against Forest and Wolves over the last week.
He said: “Manchester United progressing in the FA Cup and Europa League makes it more difficult for them with the fact they’ve got Casemiro suspended for the next four matches and I think we all know United with and without Casemiro, it’s a big different.
“I think from that point of view, Newcastle, with those two wins, are in a position where they will have a real go at it but I still think Liverpool, Tottenham and United have got a little bit more experience but Newcastle, to be fair, if they start playing well and hitting that form, this is the right time to hit form with ten or eleven games to go.
“There is still a long way to go. They had 13 games to go before tonight, that’s a third of the season. Eddie Howe won’t be getting carried away but he’ll feel a lot more confident after these last five or six days.”