After Utd’s resounding win over West Ham on Saturday, anything less than our best today could turn their game into a title winning performance.
And make no mistake, Keegan’s well up for this one. Having finally found themselves on an unbeaten run, Newcastle would like nothing better than to relieve themselves on any fireworks we’re preparing to light and stretch that run a bit more. It might only be pride they’re playing for now but we all know how big Keegan is on that and having endured a pretty embarrassing return to what was a shambolic Newcastle side, he’s keen to show us all he’s still worthy of his God-like status at St.James Park.
To be fair to him, he does seem to have turned a dejected looking Newcastle tripping over their bottom lips, into a side playing with their heads up and chests out and that’s no mean feat considering the position they were in when he started. While we were all having a right laugh at his expense, Keegan seemed to find something positive in every defeat to share with the sniggering press – he’s nothing if not enthusiastic.
Newcastle are a pretty decent side and Keegan’s tinkering seems to have paid dividends. Obafemi Martins is looking comfortable back up front and Owen’s new role has given him a new lease of life. Talking of which, Nicky Butt is another one who’s football seems to have been resuscitated by his new manager. In fact, add the dependable Geremi and the walking ASBO into the equation, and it’s clear Keegan didn’t have a bad side to work with in the first place. Smith and Duff – who to be honest does seem prone to a bit of ambivalence once his feet are firmly under a club’s table – have been subjected to a kick up the arse and a little rest to consider their apathy. Even the defence have managed four clean sheets from their last six games – not too shoddy without their first choice keeper you’d have to say.
So we’ve definitely got a game on our hands against the resurgent Geordies and I’ve no doubt they’ll come out fighting a little harder than the lightweights Utd had this weekend. But we’ve looked pretty good ourselves in our last couple of games albeit against top opposition. Ballack, who’s really impressed me this season, is commanding in midfield and Essien is finally starting to resemble the beast of a player we saw so often last year. Even Drogba seems to have benefited from a recent slating or two in the press and shaken off that sniper for the time being at least. Our defence still holds out pretty well and if we show the same sort of commitment to attack as we did against Utd and Liverpool the game might even be watchable. But can we make Utd wait til next weekend to celebrate?
Last Starting XI: Harper, Beye, Edgar, Enrique, Taylor, Butt, Barton, Geremi, Owen, Viduka, Martins.
Should be at full strength – now there’s a novel concept!
Last Starting XI: Cech, Essien, A Cole, Terry, Carvalho, Makelele, Lampard, Ballack, Kalou, J Cole, Drogba.