Belfast Telegraph

Carver sets down a challenge

John Carver has challenged his Newcastle players to relieve the pressure on their shoulders by adding another dent to Liverpool's Champions League hopes.

The Reds have slipped to seven points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City as a result of successive defeats by Manchester United and Arsenal, although things could have been worse had the champions managed to emerge from Monday night's trip to Crystal Palace with something to show for their efforts.

Brendan Rodgers' men ended their mini-slump on Wednesday evening with a 1-0 FA Cup quarter-final replay victory at Blackburn, and Carver knows they will will determined to add three points to that to keep alive their hopes of a top-four finish when the Magpies head for Anfield on Monday evening.

He said: "They are only seven points off it, I think, and they'll think they have still got a chance, seven points off it with seven games to go.

"I remember our football club having a huge gap for (to win) the championship and it dwindling away, so anything is possible.

"They'll think they've still got a chance of getting into that top four, and I'll be very surprised if the manager doesn't prepare his team thinking like that, so we know we are going to have a difficult game.

"But there's a bit of pressure on ourselves as well."

That pressure comes specifically because of Sunday's 1-0 derby defeat at Sunderland, the Magpies' fifth successive reverse in the fixture, but more generally as a result of a run of 13 games in all competition under their current head coach which has brought just two victories.

Newcastle have not added to their points tally of 35 since they beat Aston Villa on February 28, some four games ago, and have scored just once in the process.

They remain nine points clear of the relegation zone, but with European challengers Tottenham heading for St James' Park next weekend, the situation could get worse before it gets better.

Carver's cause has not been helped by an injury and suspension list which at some points has robbed him of an entire XI, and while there is light at the end of the tunnel for midfielders Rolando Aarons and Siem de Jong, the trip to Merseyside will come too soon.

Carver said: "I would say Rolando is certainly ahead of Siem de Jong at the moment, but neither of those guys will be available this weekend."


From Belfast Telegraph