It was a sucky-sucky game last Saturday when Crystal Palace prevented the Magpies from scoring a goal against them seemingly for the twenty-seventh time this season, but alas. Palace ranks 12th in the Premier League and Newcastle’s point helped them close their 20th matchday in third place sandwiched between both Mancunian clubs. Not bad!
The goals have been lacking in Premier League matchups of late but they have come in bunches in League Cup clashes. I can tell you I can surely live with that knowing the next two games on NUFC’s schedule belong to the extraordinary Carabao Battle Royal.
Howe took to the microphones and addressed the most pressing questions by the media on Monday, ahead of the matchup against Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 24.
First things first, Howe was asked about the massive knockout-round games against Southampton for the right of earning a ticket to the Carabao Cup final and a chance for Newcastle to bag their first trophy in the last thousand years:
“We’re delighted to be where we are but the semi final itself isn’t enough.”
“Ultimately you want to get one step further and I know the players feel the same way.”
“We want to make the final.”
Howe was then asked about tomorrow’s game in particular, against a struggling Southampton that sit dead last in the Premier League table:
“We want it to be a tie for the supporters. The only way we can guarantee that is by performing at our best.”
“We’re desperate for the next step but we have to take our mind off that and focus on the job and that is to go to Southampton and perform.”
Was the draw kind to Newcastle by handing them the EPL’s bottom dweller? Not so much according to Howe:
“Beating Leicester was our priority and then you take whatever is in front of you.”
“We know what we have to do. It’s going to be two really difficult games for us. I’m under no illusions of that.”
“Being in the semi-finals was all we cared about.”
Commenting on Southampton’s struggles through the first half of the season and after appointing Nathan Jones in mid-November:
“It hasn’t been a huge transition, Ralph (Hasenhuttl) had his way of playing and Nathan (Jones) has his. There are subtle differences.”
“I admire Nathan greatly as a manager. He’s done very, very well in his career. What a job he did at Luton and he’s now gone to a new club and wants to implement his ideas.”
“We know with the new manager and players coming in, it’s a different challenge that we face than under Ralph.”
Moving on to Newcastle’s own 15-game unbeaten streak:
“[I’m] really proud of the group for being as consistent as we have been.”
“It takes one off-day to end that, so to go 15 games (unbeaten) is hugely satisfying.”
“The disappointing thing is after Saturday it didn’t feel like that—it felt like a defeat.”
About his on-form squad after returning from the World Cup break:
“I think we’ve played well. The general performances have been of a high level.”
“That’s the first thing you look for. How are they looking? Are we seeing what we’re executing in training on the pitch? Yes, we are.”
“Is it perfect? No. Will it ever be? No.”
“We’d like more goals but I can’t fault the effort of the lads.
Speaking of goals, Howe was asked about what is going on with Ryan Fraser, who has been left off the team for a while now and could be injured:
“[Fraser] is not injured, he just needs to keep training hard.”
“He’s a valued member of the squad. I know him better than anyone and I know what he’s capable of.”
“I’d love to see him back in a Newcastle shirt.”
Of course, there were questions about Bruno’s miraculous recovery and presence on Howe’s lineup last Saturday after leaving the pitch in tears just a week earlier:
“Bruno said he felt 100% fit to play [at Palace] and the medical team were absolutely convinced he was OK.”
“His performance (against Palace), I think showed that.”
“We’re really pleased that he came through the game fine.”
Another man who has returned recently and who has already added one more goal to his season tally, Alexander Isak, was also discussed by Howe:
“[Isak] hasn’t had a lot of training time. We’ve had a lot of games and between those you can’t train the players to the intensity you want.”
“We’ve exposed him to the games, but at some stage he will need that training load to get to his very best levels.”
Howe didn’t offer many details about possible reinforcements coming to Tyneside to strengthen the weakened midfield and forward lines after the latest injuries and sales:
“The club are trying. That’s where we are.”
“There’s no positive news to give you.”
At least it seems like all of the transfer outside noise and the internal developments on that front are not affecting Howe this season, compared to last year when Dan Ashworth wasn’t yet working for Newcastle and it was Howe who had to deal with everything:
“My first priority is always the game and the players I have here.”
“Then once that is done, we turn to the transfer market and identify the players we feel who can make the group stronger.”
“I try to shift my focus from one to another.”
After a hectic return to competition after the World Cup starting on Christmas, Newcastle find themselves navigating a “softer” schedule these days. There is no Premier League action scheduled for next weekend so the Magpies will be playing just once this week and once more next Tuesday before they welcome back an EPL match next month.
That’s correct, there will be no more league games until after the transfer deadline (Wednesday) so things might or might not look different by the time the EPL ball resumes rolling.
Are the lads from Southampton the weakest bunch taking part in the Carabao Cup semi-finals slate? Maybe. Are they still a semi-finals team? You bet. Whatever the case, Newcastle is just two games away from qualifying for their first final since forever.
One great match on the road tomorrow and Newcastle would have a foot and a half into the League Cup final. One great match at SJP in a week, and they would have sealed it.
Game by game, step by step, they’re getting there.
- Date: Tuesday, January 24th
- Kick-off: 20:00 BST / 15:00 EST
- Location: St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton (England)
- Broadcasts: DAZN (CAN) — ESPN+ (USA) — Sky Ultra HD, SKY GO Extra, TalkSport Radio UK, Sky Sports Football, Sky Sports Main Event, BBC Radio 5 Live (UK)
For all your international watching needs, check LiveSoccerTV.com.