Eddie Howe has admitted Newcastle have “massively over-achieved” this season and will have to spend big in the summer if they are to match it next time around.

The Magpies secured a return to the Champions League after a 20-year absence when Monday night’s 0-0 draw with Leicester guaranteed a top-four finish ahead of Sunday’s final-day trip to Chelsea.

That represents a significant upgrade on the club’s target at the start of the campaign, and it will require further investment from their Saudi-backed owners this summer to ensure they can compete on all fronts.

Asked if he was looking forward to that challenge, head coach Howe said: “Ask me in a few months. I don’t know if it’s something you look forward to, but the dynamic will have changed for us.

“I think we have massively over-achieved this year for where we were at the start of the season and to keep over-achieving – and that’s what we’re going to have to do to match the expectation – is going to be our biggest challenge.”

Newcastle have already spent in excess of £250million on players in the three transfer windows since Amanda Staveley’s consortium bought out Mike Ashley in October 2021, and while they have bought astutely and been richly rewarded, Howe is conscious that task will become more challenging.

They will shop this summer in a different market to the one the 45-year-old might have anticipated. The club has long-standing interest in West Ham’s Declan Rice and Leicester’s James Maddison with both tipped to be on the move this summer, although Rice in particular will have suitors, some with even deeper pockets, queuing up.

Asked if his wish-list would include “marquee” signings, Howe said: “Yes, there would be players we’d love to bring in that would be classified in that bracket, I’m sure.

“For me, it’s more about the role they can fulfil in the team – whether that’s viewed positively or as a marquee signing, then great.

“I’m not in my mind thinking, ‘We have to have one of those players that ticks that box for the supporters’. As much as I’d love to do that, it’s about finding the right player in the right position who I think makes us better.”

For all Newcastle’s new-found wealth, Howe has been at pains throughout his reign to stress that unbridled spending is simply not an option, and that the club will have to continue to invest shrewdly.

He said: “Unfortunately players don’t come cheap, especially good players. Yes, we are going to have to spend a certain amount of money. How much that is, I don’t know.

“I still don’t know what my budget is at this moment in time, but there will have to be some expenditure. It will have to be controlled. It will have to be under FFP restrictions, which we have worked under and will continue to work under. They are definitely impacting us and what we will be able to do.”

Howe will be without keeper Nick Pope at Stamford Bridge after he underwent surgery on a hand injury, and he will join Jamaal Lascelles, Javier Manquillo, Matt Ritchie, Joelinton and Joe Willock on the sidelines.

Callum Wilson is in the form of his life as his goals edge Newcastle ever closer to Champions League qualification.

That is the view of Magpies head coach Eddie Howe, who worked with the England striker during the pair’s time together at Bournemouth before they were reunited at St James’ Park.

Wilson is enjoying the Premier League goals return of his career with 18 to date, the last 11 coming since the beginning of April and eight of them in his six most recent appearances, the perfect response to record signing Alexander Isak’s presence on Tyneside.

Asked if the 31-year-old’s rich vein of form was his best yet, Howe said with a smile: “He’ll probably tell me there’s been a better spell somewhere down the line, I imagine.

“The season he was in the Championship with us, my first season with him at Bournemouth, I thought he was electric.

“But this is at the very highest level, this is against the best defenders in the world, the best teams in the world and he’s performing at probably, I’d say, the best level I’ve ever seen him at.”

Wilson’s latest telling contribution came in Thursday night’s crucial 4-1 home victory over Brighton, which sends the Magpies into Monday’s clash with Leicester knowing Champions League qualification is firmly within their grasp.

With the score at 2-1 and barely a minute of normal time remaining, he broke and fired past keeper Jason Steele before racing clear once again to set up Bruno Guimaraes to score, although it was his all-round contribution which pleased Howe most.

The 45-year-old said: “I complimented him, not in terms of the goal he scored, but just his intelligence on the press for us because he is the one that has to set the chain off and he has to get it right.

“If he gets it wrong, the whole team suffers, so I thought his tactical understanding was as good as I’ve seen.”

The intensity Newcastle mustered against the Seagulls has become their trademark under Howe, and it is one of which he is justifiably proud.

He said: “You can’t promise the winning. In my first press conference here, I said I can’t promise that, but I can try to give a team that empties on the pitch, that gives everything every time we step on to it.

“That’s what I ask of the team, that’s what I ask of the players consistently. It’s easier said than done because in a long season, cup runs, naturally people will have off days, bad days, that’s just natural.

“But you can have a bad day and still give your all, and I’ve got to compliment the players on what they’ve done this year. The mindset and mentality of the group have been second to none.”

Eddie Howe has admitted Newcastle will need two XIs of equal quality to cope with the rigours of European football next season.

The Magpies secured a Europa League campaign at worst with Thursday night’s 4-1 Premier League victory over Brighton, and will play in the Champions League if they win one of their two remaining games of the current campaign, which continues with struggling Leicester’s trip to St James’ Park on Monday.

Asked what that would mean for the summer transfer window, Howe, who has been allowed to spend in excess of £250million to date, replied: “It’s a good question. We need to figure that out.

“If you have a strong squad, rotation will be important. Rotation is going to be important, utilising the whole squad is going to be important.

“We haven’t felt the necessity to necessarily do that on a consistent basis because we’ve been in one competition – of course, we had the cup run. We have rotated to a degree, but maybe not in the numbers that we might need to next year.

“If you’re going to do that, then the squad needs to be strong enough, so if you put out two XIs, they’re of equal strength.”

The strength of Howe’s current squad could be put to the test on Monday evening with his midfield resources stretched severely in the aftermath of an energy-sapping clash with the Seagulls.

Joe Willock was helped from the pitch in some discomfort with a hamstring injury which the Magpies fear will end his season with two games to go, while Bruno Guimaraes has been nursing a persistent ankle problem in recent months.

Howe said as he conducted his pre-match press conference: “Today I’ll be going straight to the physio room, to be honest, after this to see how everybody is. We’ve got a few concerns.

“The lads gave so much yesterday to the game, they’ve given a lot to the season physically and I just hope there’s no serious effects.

“It looks like Joe Willock may be in trouble with his hamstring – we might lose him for the season, but that’s unclear as I sit here now. Fingers crossed our team will still be strong.”

Even redoubtable Brazilian Joelinton is feeling the effects of a gruelling campaign after running himself into the ground in the club’s cause.

Howe, who is not anticipating having either Sean Longstaff or Jacob Murphy back available to face the Foxes, said: “He’s a machine. He’d literally – it’s a well-used phrase in football – run through a brick wall for the team, the club and I think he does every game.

“He succumbed to that brick wall last night, it seemed to hurt him, but we hope he’s okay. He’s just been incredible for us this year.”

Eddie Howe is confident his Newcastle players will not be daunted by the challenge of securing Champions League qualification as the season draws to a close.

The Magpies have four games in which to cement a top-four Premier League finish as they, Manchester United, Liverpool, Brighton and outsiders Tottenham jockey for position behind top two Manchester City and Arsenal.

A 2-0 home defeat by the Gunners last weekend may have dented their charge and prompted hopes among the chasing pack of a late-season wobble, but head coach Howe was having none of it.

Asked if the air around the training ground was a little heavier as a result of what is at stake in Saturday’s trip to relegation-threatened Leeds, he said: “The air should be lighter, not heavier.

“We’re excited, that has to be our emotion. We’re looking forward to the challenges ahead, we’re not in any way, I don’t feel, daunted by it.

“In sport, sometimes the more you think the more you damage yourselves, so play the game. These players have played all their lives and played because they enjoy it, so let’s strip away everything and let’s just perform well in our next game.”

Newcastle head into the latest round of fixtures sitting in third place and knowing two more wins would almost certainly secure a place in European club football’s biggest competition next season – which would represent a significant upgrade on their target when they set out in August.

Howe admitted: “The aim was to not be in another relegation battle, try to stay clear of that and then build a lot of aspects of the team and play to be successful and sustain that success long-term.

“Things have snowballed, now we sit where we do and we’ve done incredibly well.”

In the process, the Magpies have found themselves thrust into the limelight with opposition managers having taken aim at both their game-management and physicality.

Asked if he felt they had people rattled, Howe said: “We hope to be a nuisance for all teams. We don’t want to be nice to play against.”

Howe’s players will need to bring all that to bear at Elland Road, where Leeds are engaged in a desperate fight for top-flight survival with former Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce having been parachuted in to engineer a rescue mission.

He and Howe were touted for the vacant England manager’s job back in 2016 before Allardyce got the nod for what proved to be the briefest of reigns.

“Without remembering, I’d probably say I felt I shouldn’t maybe have been in that frame at that stage of my career,” Howe said. “I felt I had so much to achieve and experience before being elevated to that position.

“But it’s always a compliment and you always take it in the right way, that it must mean you’re doing something right in your job to be elevated to those levels.”

A bullish Allardyce ventured on his appointment at Leeds that he was as good a manager as Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta, but Howe says he was not disappointed to be left off the list.

“I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to push my name into that list,” he said.

Eddie Howe has admitted Newcastle will have to unearth future superstars before they hit the headlines after playing down links with Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.

The high-flying Magpies have found themselves at the centre of speculation over big-money moves ever since Amanda Staveley’s Saudi-backed consortium completed its takeover at St James’ Park in October 2021.

Newcastle, in which Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund holds an 80 per cent stake, have invested in excess of £250million in new players in the last three transfer windows, but have been touted as contenders to land both Portuguese giant Ronaldo and Brazilian counterpart Neymar in recent days.

Asked about the prospect of some of the best players in the world one day plying their trade on Tyneside, head coach Howe – who has persistently cited financial fair play as a limiting factor on the club’s recruitment plans – said: “It is best to discover them before they explode onto the world scene.

“We could not be able to come close to affording those players as they are the best players in the world.

“We are never going to be in a position currently to afford those transfer fees and wages, so we need to go underneath and find them young and develop them into the players they can be.”

The Magpies’ business to date has been shrewd with the likes of Nick Pope and Kieran Trippier having arrived for relatively modes fees before more sizeable investment in Bruno Guimaraes, Sven Botman, Alexander Isak and Anthony Gordon.

But, having guided the club into third place in the Premier League table ahead of Sunday’s showdown with title-chasing Arsenal, Howe knows it is inevitable they will be linked with bigger names.

Asked about Ronaldo and Neymar, he said: “That kind of speculation has been there from day one since the takeover, really. Naturally everyone has then assumed the biggest names in world football will be going to Newcastle.

“Now we’ve not recruited that way. Financially, we can’t recruit that way at the moment, but also we have to bring the right people and the right players into the group.

“I will say the transfer market is such a complex decision, you can’t just pick a name and bring them in. There’s got to be a lot of thought going into what we’re doing both financially and looking at the players.”

“Those two players are unbelievable players. We are linked with different names.

“I know what direction I want to take the team in and what we can and can’t do in the transfer market.”

Howe’s comments came amid reports that Lionel Messi could command a £320million a year package – £15million more than Staveley and her partners paid for Newcastle – if he opts to move to Saudi Arabia’s Pro League this summer.

Eddie Howe is convinced Anthony Gordon will be a top player for Champions League-chasing Newcastle despite another early withdrawal against Southampton.

The £45million January signing was handed just his third start for the club in Sunday’s 3-1 comeback victory over the Saints which tightened their grip on third place, but made way at half-time for striker Callum Wilson.

Gordon, 22, had earlier passed up two good opportunities to score, including clipping the post with a 19th-minute effort after beating keeper Alex McCarthy, although Howe was happy with his contribution since his arrival from Everton and is expecting much, much more from him in the future.

He said: “We’ve seen glimpses of unbelievable potential. I’ve got no doubts – I’ve said this previously – that he’ll be a top player for us.

“Sometimes these things take a little bit longer for everyone else to see, but I’ve got no doubts.”

Gordon was also substituted 62 minutes into his full debut at Manchester City and after 56 minutes in the 3-0 defeat at Aston Villa, which came a week after reacting angrily to being taken back off having earlier being introduced from the bench at Brentford.

However on this occasion, Howe insisted the player’s reaction had been just what he would have expected.

He said: “His reaction to being taken off was very good – if there can be a very good reaction to it.

“Obviously internally, I suspect, he was very disappointed, but he didn’t let that show. There was no outward sign of a negative reaction to that, which you need in that situation.

“If I wanted to introduce Callum, I had to take somebody off. It was a process of that decision, really. I thought Anthony played well in the first half. Our best moments came through him, so it wasn’t really a slight on what he had given the team.

“I felt I had to do something to stimulate the group and give Southampton a different problem. I was delighted with the 45 minutes that he had.”

Howe’s decision paid off handsomely as the Magpies bounced back from Stuart Armstrong’s 41st-minute opener to overwhelm a side which had given as good as it got for long periods before the break.

Wilson levelled within nine minutes of his arrival and then, after substitute Theo Walcott had inadvertently turned Sven Botman’s header into his own net, scored for a second time after Joe Willock had forced Ainsley Maitland-Niles into an error.

He might have collected his first hat-trick for Newcastle had a late shot not hit the crossbar twice, but he will head into Sunday’s vital clash with Arsenal on 15 goals for the campaign and having provided the perfect response to being left out of Howe’s starting line-up despite scoring twice at Everton in midweek.

By contrast, Southampton are on the brink, six points adrift of safety with just four games to play and knowing the odds of them staying up are against them.

Boss Ruben Selles said: “We need to be more robust. We came here, we showed what we are, but we need to put the performance together for 90 to 95, 96 minutes, and that’s why we didn’t make it today.

“We just need to continue, try to put those performances in for longer in the game and if one incident or one goal is against us, to still stand there and try to get the very best out of the game.”

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe is confident there is more to come from his own “Thierry Henry” after seeing record signing Alexander Isak light up the Premier League.

The Magpies’ £60million summer recruit has been in sensational form since returning from a four-month injury lay-off, taking his tally for the season to 10 goals as he battles Callum Wilson for the right to lead the line.

However, it was a stunning assist in Thursday night’s 4-1 win at Everton which drew comparisons with the mercurial Frenchman as he picked up the ball on halfway and skipped past three defenders on a mesmerising run before crossing for Jacob Murphy to tap in at the far post.

Asked if he could see the comparison, head coach Howe said: “Yes, I can, I can see the comparisons there.

“Everyone is different, there are no two players that are the same, but I do think he has some of the characteristics Thierry had.

“He’s certainly got the speed and a similar build and frame. The footwork for the assist was truly remarkable, really, and I think he’s got a lot of potential to improve and get better.

“But it’s been a great start for him here.”

Eyebrows were raised when Newcastle opted to invest so heavily to prise the now 23-year-old away from Real Sociedad in their search for added firepower, but their faith has been richly rewarded.

Isak scored a stunning debut goal at Liverpool in August, but after just three appearances for the club, damaged a thigh muscle on international duty with Sweden and was sidelined until January.

However, his rich vein of form has been key to the Magpies’ surge into Champions League contention – he has scored four times in his last five games – although his intervention at Goodison Park came from the bench as Howe rotated his in-form frontmen.

Asked if Isak has proved an even better player than he had anticipated, he said: “I don’t think you ever know with absolute certainty.

“Anyone who says that would be lying because until you work with a player close-up and you see them every day, I don’t think you ever know what their true capability is.

“But we’ve been very impressed with everything that he’s delivered to this point, not just technically on the pitch, but his character and how he’s handled certain situations. He’s been first class.”

Nevertheless, Isak will have to wait to see if he gets another chance to impress when struggling Southampton visit St James’ Park on Sunday with Howe having rested Wilson for the trip to Brentford earlier this month after he had scored twice at West Ham, and then done the same to the Swede following his double against Tottenham on Sunday.

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe is taking nothing for granted despite a return to the Champions League for the first time in 20 years looking all the more assured after a 4-1 win at Everton.

Callum Wilson scored his seventh and eighth goals in six matches against the Toffees, with Joelinton and substitute Jacob Murphy adding the others as the Magpies made it 10 goals in their last two matches.

Victory opened up an eight-point gap to fifth place but Howe, whose side thrashed Tottenham 6-1 on Sunday, is refusing to get ahead of himself.

“We know nothing is taken for granted from our perspective,” said Howe.

“It puts us in a lot stronger position. To get six points from Tottenham and Everton is a great return.

“It was always going to be a difficult game for us but we handled the occasion well in a hostile environment.

“The first goal was going to be crucial. It was probably our best move and it came at a good time for us.

“The confidence was there and it was evident in the second half, maybe a bit of the edge of the game had gone but I think we had to earn the right to get to that point because Everton put us under pressure in the first half.”

What the papers say

Liverpool are hoping to sign Manchester City “outcast” Kalvin Phillips in a £35m deal this summer, the Daily Star says. Jurgen Klopp targeted the 27-year-old midfielder after being priced out of a move for Jude Bellingham.

Elsewhere, the Daily Telegraph reports Romelu Lukaku will be asked whether or not he wants to try to revive his Chelsea career under proposed permanent head coach Mauricio Pochettino. The 29-year-old striker has spent the season on loan at Inter Milan after making it clear that he no longer wanted to play for former head coach Thomas Tuchel.

In more Blues news, the Evening Standard says Frank Lampard will make himself available as a sounding board for Pochettino to help ensure a smooth transition. The former Tottenham manager is due to take over at the end of the season.

And according to The Sun, Eddie Howe will have up to £150million to bolster his Newcastle squad this summer. The Magpies are laying plans to prepare their squad for a Champions League campaign next season and are willing to spend between £100-150million.

Social media round-up

Top four = big spending for Howe this summer. And he has targets ? ? https://t.co/vjUB6mcTgt

— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) April 26, 2023

Lampard on Mount: “New deal for him? Not my opinion. It will be the opinion of the club and the opinion of Mason, so that's between them”. ?⭐️ #CFC

“There’s no doubt, he’s top-class player. Trust me, it’s not easy to play with top players around and he’s managed to do that”. pic.twitter.com/oczA2DJdny

— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) April 25, 2023

Players to watch

Lionel Messi: 90min says Barcelona are “leaving no stone unturned” in their bid to re-sign the 35-year-old Argentina forward from Paris St-Germain but a deal will not be straightforward.

Andre Onana: Italian outlet Gazzetta dello Sport reports Chelsea are interested in signing the 27-year-old Cameroon goalkeeper from Inter Milan and could use Kepa Arrizabalaga, 28, as part of the deal.

Danny Rose watched in awe as his old club Tottenham were humbled 6-1 by Newcastle United and said being at the game made him "fall in love with football again".

Former England defender Rose, who spent most of his career at Spurs but in 2020 enjoyed a short loan at Newcastle, has been a free agent since leaving Watford last September.

The left-back subsequently kept his distance from football, even going as far as avoiding watching the World Cup in Qatar earlier this season.

But appearing as a pundit during Sky Sports' coverage on Sunday, the 32-year-old revealed how watching Newcastle's comprehensive victory over Spurs helped reignite his passion.

It may not be the most popular opinion with Tottenham supporters, who saw their team humiliated on Tyneside, but Rose's comments were heartfelt and not said with any relish for Spurs' downfall.

"I haven't watched a lot of football this season, but watching those 90 minutes have made me fall in love with football again. So thank you," Rose said.

"Obviously, it's no secret that I've been away from football. I've deliberately not watched any football - I didn't watch the World Cup.

"It was only until the other night – I watched [Manchester] City in the Champions League. Watching it and listening to the music is when I started to think: 'OK, I miss it.'

"I haven't been in a stadium for a long time. I love football – a lot of it's to do with the atmosphere – but just seeing how [Newcastle have] played football and that feeling after three points, it's just reignited some feelings within myself."

Newcastle, who were beaten 3-0 by Aston Villa in their previous outing, bolstered their top-four status by moving six points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham, against whom they led 5-0 after just 21 minutes.

"That's the reaction we wanted and an incredible start," Newcastle boss Eddie Howe told Sky Sports. "The quality of our finishing was incredible. They weren't stick-on goals. We were lethal in front of goal.

"Everything about our first half an hour was where we want to be. Since I walked through the door here, the players have responded so well. I can't thank them enough."

Newcastle full-back Kieran Trippier urged his team-mates to embrace the prospect of qualifying for next season's Champions League.

"We let the supporters down last week, and it was about responding well. I thought we did that," said the Magpies captain.

"We got some goals early in the game. We showed throughout the season we want to be on the front foot.

"We shouldn't be scared to say we want to play Champions League football. The games are running out. This stadium would be bouncing with Champions League football."

Newcastle United boosted their hopes of Champions League qualification and left Tottenham's own chances reeling as Jacob Murphy and Alexander Isak both scored twice in a 6-1 rout of their top-four rivals.

Murphy struck either side of Joelinton beating Hugo Lloris as Eddie Howe's team enjoyed a dream start, racing into a 3-0 lead within nine minutes at a jubilant St James' Park.

Their lead stood at 5-0 after 21 minutes as Spurs imploded, Isak netting twice to kill any hopes of a fightback from the visitors – who withdrew captain Lloris at half-time.

While Harry Kane pulled one back after the break, Callum Wilson restored Newcastle's five-goal cushion as they moved six points clear of Tottenham, with a game in hand still to come.

Newcastle needed just 63 seconds to go ahead, Murphy finishing high into the roof of the net after Lloris pushed Joelinton's tame effort straight into his path.

Tottenham showed no signs of being shocked into life by that goal, Joelinton beating their offside trap to round Lloris and finish into an empty net four minutes later.

Spurs' start went from bad to worse as they found themselves 3-0 down within nine minutes, Murphy leaving Lloris stranded as he rifled into the bottom-left corner from 25 yards out.

Kane shot wide as Spurs sought a response, but Isak killed the contest with his quickfire double, side-footing home when sent clear by Joe Willock, then finishing low across goal two minutes later.

Sean Longstaff almost added a sixth shortly before the interval, when Cristian Stellini hooked the error-prone Lloris in favour of Fraser Forster.

Kane denied Nick Pope a clean sheet with a neat left-footed finish, but Spurs' punishment was not done as substitute Wilson tapped home one minute after entering the fray.

What does it mean? Spurs hit new low as Magpies soar

Stellini called on Tottenham to do the business in the biggest week of their season ahead of this game, but their capitulation to a top-four rival may end up being the enduring image of his stint as interim boss.

Never before had Spurs conceded five goals in the first half of a Premier League game, but Newcastle required just 21 minutes to bring up that tally as the visitors collapsed.

Only once before in the Premier League has a team taken an earlier five-goal lead, with Manchester City doing so in 18 minutes when they routed Watford 8-0 in September 2019.  

Newcastle share the load

Newcastle's attackers were everywhere as they swarmed Spurs in the opening exchanges – causing Stellini to hook Pape Sarr and introduce another centre-back after the fifth goal.

While Isak led the line energetically and showcased his finishing ability with two goals in as many minutes, it was very much a collective effort.

Newcastle have now had three different players score 10 or more goals in a single Premier League season for the first time (Isak, Wilson and Miguel Almiron).

Supporting cast on song

It was a great day for Newcastle's unsung heroes, with Murphy registering two goal involvements in a single game for just the second time for the Magpies – previously doing so in an EFL Cup tie against Morecambe.

Joelinton, meanwhile, reached nine goal contributions for the campaign in all competitions (seven goals, two assists), matching his previous season-high tally from 2020-21.

What's next?

Newcastle visit relegation-threatened Everton in their next Premier League game on Thursday, when Tottenham will attempt to respond to their latest humiliation at home to Manchester United.

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe said he was "not really looking for positives" but instead "for a response" after his side's 3-0 loss at Aston Villa.

OIlie Watkins continued his superb form for Villa as Unai Emery's team claimed a fifth straight Premier League win on Saturday.

Third-placed Newcastle were second-best throughout at Villa Park, with Villa leading the way in shots (15 to eight), attempts on target (six to two) and expected goals (1.87 to 0.57). Indeed, the hosts also hit the woodwork twice and had a goal disallowed.

It snapped a five-game winning streak for Newcastle, who suffered their heaviest defeat in the league since losing 5-0 to Manchester City in May of last year.

With a home game against top-four rivals Tottenham next up, Howe wants a reaction.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Howe said: "We were off our best levels right from the start. Aston Villa are a good team and we never got going.

"We've been consistently excellent this season, this is the first dip we've had; it can happen and we have to react.

"We were just off it in every respect. We've got a massive game next week. I'm not really looking for positives, I'm looking for a response."

Villa, meanwhile, have won five Premier League games on the bounce for the first time since the 1997-98 campaign.

The win moved them onto 50 points from 31 games, which is the earliest they have reached this total since the 2009-10 season, when they finished sixth, the position they will occupy for at least another week, just six points off the Champions League places.

Watkins was again their main man, netting a second-half double after teeing up Jacob Ramsey's opener. Since the restart following the World Cup, the former Brentford striker has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other player (15).

"We are on a great run at the moment we are playing good football," Watkins told BT Sport.

"Newcastle are a great side so it shows the levels we are at. We are enjoying it at the moment.

"[We are] trusting team-mates in tight areas and if we make mistakes we go again. Real togetherness in the team and looking forward to games to come."

Newcastle United are heading into a "massive month" as they bid for Champions League qualification, and their first task is EFL Cup final foes Manchester United.

Newcastle's long wait for a major trophy goes on after they were beaten 2-0 by Man United at Wembley in February.

This can still be a successful season for the Magpies, however, with a top-four finish within their hands. They could even leapfrog third-placed Man United with a win on Sunday.

Eddie Howe's side will not be short of motivation for that match at St James' Park, although it is far from the last big game they have in April.

There are another six fixtures to come before the end of the month, and Howe said: "It's a massive month. Whenever you have an intense period of games, you know those results are going to define what we do this season.

"The last two results [wins against Wolves and Nottingham Forest] put us in a really strong position and also just lifted confidence levels and morale in the squad.

"This is going to be a big week to come. It's Manchester United first, so we have to focus on that alone and learn our lessons from the cup final defeat."


The EFL Cup clash came after Erik ten Hag had described Newcastle as "annoying" in reference to their gamesmanship.

Although Howe suggested on Friday such claims had been "overblown", he confirmed Newcastle would be out to annoy their opponents.

That is certainly what Ten Hag expects as he revisited the top before this encounter, saying: "We know they delay. It's something that the referee doesn't want.

"Whey want to have tempo in the game, that is the aim of the Premier League, so they have to be consistent to let the game go."

He added: "It's a team that is really hard to beat. We are looking forward to the challenge, and the evidence is we can beat them."


Newcastle United – Alexander Isak

Isak returned injured the last time he went away on international duty in September, missing more than three months as a result. This time, the forward appears to be fit after featuring for Sweden and is coming into form, scoring six times in 10 league matches this season.

Isak has three in his last two games, with Freddie Ljungberg and Zlatan Ibrahimovic the only Swedish players to have previously netted in three in a row in the competition.

Manchester United – Marcus Rashford

Rashford, unlike Isak, did not go away on international duty, complaining of a problem ahead of linking up with England. That appeared to frustrate Gareth Southgate, but it should have him fit for this game.

It is a boost to United, with Rashford scoring more winning goals than any other player in the Premier League this season. His nine have only twice been topped by a United player in a single campaign – Cristiano Ronaldo (12 in 2007-08) and Wayne Rooney (10 in 2009-10).



Newcastle are winless in six against Man United in the Premier League, but their past two meetings – the only two under Howe – have both ended in draws.

It was goalless between the sides at Old Trafford. Although Newcastle have not kept clean sheets in consecutive games against Man United since May 1997, the visitors are without a goal in their past two league games.

The Magpies are more than capable of frustrating their opponents if they have a result to protect, too, with their matches this season spanning the third-longest period of time on average at 98 minutes and 58 seconds but seeing a ball-in-play low of 51 minutes and 41 seconds.


Newcastle - 34.3 per cent

Man United - 36.8 per cent

Draw - 28.9 per cent

Alexander Isak hit a clinical double to give Newcastle United a 2-1 victory at Nottingham Forest and believes the Magpies can soar after the international break.

The Swedish striker tucked away a late penalty to earn the win at the City Ground, moving Newcastle to 47 points from 26 games.

They sit one point behind fourth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand and are five points better off than Liverpool.

Several of their players will disperse to represent their countries over the next fortnight, before the battle for Premier League places resumes.

Emmanuel Dennis put Forest ahead in Friday's contest with a high-quality chip in the 26th minute, but Newcastle drew level moments before half-time as Isak volleyed in Joe Willock's cross.

Newcastle's Elliot Anderson had a goal disallowed midway through the second half, with team-mate Sean Longstaff ruled to have been offside in the build-up.

It looked set to finish level, but a rash handball from Moussa Niakhate gave Newcastle a stoppage-time penalty and Isak made no mistake with a confident strike from the spot.

Asked about the scrap for Champions League places, Isak said on Sky Sports: "We feel confident. We spoke about how it's very important to go into this break with a good feeling.

"Hopefully this will give us energy for when we come back."

He felt Newcastle "were not on it" in the first half and spoke in the dressing room about the need to step up their level.

"We came out in the second half and changed our game and we played really well and we got rewarded as well," Isak added.

Isak celebrated with the thousands of Newcastle fans who made the trip and said: "Those late winners are the best goals to score."

It was Newcastle's first league win of the season after conceding the opening goal in a game, although at one point head coach Eddie Howe was concerned it might be "one of those nights".

When it was explained to Howe that the comeback feat was a first for his team in the competition this term, he said: "I think that's in part because we've been so good this season that we've led in a lot of games, but it's nice to be able to have that in your game."

Forest, in a relegation battle, have now lost 15 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season, with only Bournemouth (17) and Leicester City (19) having lost more.

Howe was baffled by the decision to deny 20-year-old midfielder Anderson what would have been his first senior goal for Newcastle.

"I couldn't believe it at the time," Howe said. "I'd need to be sat down and explained the rules on that one. I'm disappointed for Elliot because it would have been a massive moment in his career."

Julen Lopetegui claimed Wolves were denied a "very, very clear penalty" by referee Andy Madley in Sunday's 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United.

Wolves were furious in January when they had a late goal disallowed for offside against Liverpool in the FA Cup at Anfield, and they remain convinced that was an injustice.

Madley was also the man in the middle that time, with Wolves denied what would almost certainly have been a winning goal as the game finished 2-2, with Liverpool going on to edge the replay 1-0 at Molineux.

That incident has not been forgotten by Lopetegui, and he was aghast at Wolves being denied a spot-kick early on against Newcastle at St James' Park.

Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope took a poor touch and gave away the ball to Wolves striker Raul Jimenez, before seeming to bundle the Mexican to the floor.

Wolves wanted a penalty and a red card but got neither, and Lopetegui said afterwards: "It's true that, for me, it was a very, very clear penalty for us. We are very unlucky with the referee. This is a pity for us.

"It doesn't matter what I think. The more important thing is that this is true that we have suffered a big mistake a lot of matches ago at Liverpool, and for me [Sunday's incident] was a penalty, but the VAR can't help in this case the referee. We were very unlucky with the decision. We didn't have a penalty since I arrived here."

Alexander Isak headed Newcastle ahead in the first half, but Hwang Hee-chan brought Wolves level in the 70th minute.

The visitors sat deep and were punished by a fine finish from Miguel Almiron nine minutes later.

Newcastle head coach Eddie Howe told Sky Sports he felt there would have been no justification in awarding Wolves a penalty for the clash between Pope and Jimenez, which came when the game was goalless.

Howe said: "I didn't think it was a penalty at the time. You might say I was biassed, but I didn't. I thought it was Jimenez going down before the contact was made, that was my initial assessment."

Substitute Almiron delighted Howe with his contribution off the bench, having been a regular starter up to now.

"Not that he necessarily needed to give a response, it was a case of us just trying to freshen him up," Howe said. "It's an outstanding season that he's had, he's contributed in lots of different ways, and you see the work rate he gives every week. He made a massive impact, and I'm delighted for him."

Howe was glad to halt a five-game winless run, with the Magpies jumping above Liverpool into fifth place.

"I just think it reignites us," he said. "Hopefully it re-sparks us into action and restores confidence levels to where they should be."

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