Newcastle boss Eddie Howe will go into Saturday’s FA Cup clash with derby rivals Sunderland adamant he does not need daily reassurances from the club’s big-spending owners.

The Magpies will run out for the third-round tie at the Stadium of Light having lost seven of their last eight games and each of the most recent four in all competitions.

It is a sequence which has led to speculation that Howe’s future as head coach under a Saudi-backed regime which has invested around £400million in new players since taking over in October 2021 could be uncertain.

Sources on Tyneside have dismissed talk of pressure on the 46-year-old in the wake of a difficult run, although defeat by the Black Cats is unthinkable if a season which has already brought Champions league and Carabao Cup disappointment is not to deteriorate further.

Asked about the speculation, Howe said: “I certainly don’t need daily reassurances. I feel comfortable in the fact that we are working as hard as we can to improve performances and improve results.

“Obviously I know it’s a results-based business – all the usual things you’d expect me to say – but I do feel the support from the club, and that’s really important in this moment.”

The Magpies and the Black Cats have enjoyed very different fortunes since the clubs last met almost eight years ago with the Amanda Stavely-led £305million takeover having sparked fresh optimism on Tyneside at a time when Sunderland were fighting their way back from back-to-back relegations and a four-year stay in League One.

However, the Wearside club had enjoyed six successive victories over their neighbours before a 1-1 draw last time out and new boss Michael Beale this week ventured the opinion that in terms of size, stature and history, there is little – other than hard cash – between them.

Howe, whose last visit to Sunderland in April 2017 saw his Bournemouth side relegate David Moyes’ men, said: “I’m not going to get into a war of words with any manager, I just don’t think it’s wise to make those comparisons or comments.

“We know who we are and what we are. I certainly know more about the size of this football club since managing it and the future is very bright no matter what happens in the short term.”

Howe, who identified Sunderland wide men Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts – the latter is an injury doubt this weekend – as significant threats, is desperate to end a grim run of results which has seen his side win only once since a 1-0 Premier League victory over Manchester United on December 2, and admits achieving that at the Stadium of Light could rekindle his side’s campaign.

He said: “It can certainly reboot us and just change the external – and even internal – view of ourselves because it can change very quickly.

“I have made reference to it many times; the Manchester United game, our best performance of the season, was not that long ago and now the view is very different on the team.

“Confidence is a very fragile thing for the players as well, so anything that helps them re-find their best rhythm as quickly as possible is what we’re seeking.”

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has played down the significance of a blunder which saw a bar at the home of arch-rivals Sunderland decorated in his club’s colours ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup derby.

The Wearside club have launched an investigation into how the Black Cats Bar at the Stadium of Light, which will host corporate hospitality for travelling fans, was decked out in black and white and Magpies slogans, sparking fury from home supporters.

But as “disgusted and hurt” Sunderland chairman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus vowed to address the issue, Newcastle head coach Howe waved away suggestions the 6,000 visiting supporters had been handed a head-start in the run-up to the eagerly-anticipated third-round fixture.

He said: “No, I don’t feel that. Look, these things can happen, it’s up to Sunderland what they do with their stadium. It’s nothing to do with us.”

The game, the first between the sides for almost eight years, represents Howe’s first taste of the Tyne-Wear rivalry, and he is expecting his players to handle the white-hot atmosphere.

Asked if he thought the signage row could further fuel the passion of the home fans, he said: “Regardless of what you’re expecting, you still have to play the match in front of you.

“We’ve just got to blank out any distractions and play the game and use our support – which I’m sure will be incredible – to propel us to a really good performance.”

The controversy came to light on Thursday, when images of the bar were circulated on social media.

Sunderland later apologised and confirmed it would be returned to its original state.

Louis-Dreyfus wrote on Instagram: “I would like to apologise to everyone associated with Sunderland AFC for the events that have unfolded today.

“Like our supporters, I was disgusted and hurt by the pictures circulating online of the inappropriate signs that have been ripped down.

“I take full responsibility for every decision that is taken by the employees of our club and you have my word that I will personally make sure that we make the necessary changes required to improve because it is clear that there are many areas where we need to be better.”

Red-faced Sunderland chiefs have apologised for a “serious error in judgement” after a bar at the Stadium of Light was decorated in the colours of arch-rivals Newcastle ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup derby.

Fans reacted with fury when images emerged on social media on Thursday of the Black Cats Bar at the Wearside venue with banners proclaiming the messages “Keep the Black and White Flying High” and “We are United”, while Sunderland’s motto “Ha’way the lads” in red had been replaced with the Geordie spelling “Howay” in black.

However, the Sky Bet Championship club later released a statement announcing an immediate review and confirming the bar, which will serve as a corporate hospitality area for visiting fans, would be returned to its previous livery before the third-round tie.

It said: “Sunderland AFC acknowledges that a serious error in judgement was made in relation to Black Cats Bar earlier this afternoon.

“We apologise to our fans for the understandable concern they have fairly voiced in response and this sentiment is shared by the club’s ownership group and board of directors, who have requested an immediate review is undertaken to determine how this process unfolded.

“A direct decision has also been taken by the ownership group and board of directors to return the space to its original state and we once again apologise to our supporters that this was not addressed sooner.”

Tensions were already running high among Black Cats fans after some season ticket holders were moved from their usual seats to accommodate 6,000 travelling Magpies supporters in the stadium’s North Stand.

The latest development sparked fresh anger as the club was accused of laying out the welcome mat for their Tyneside counterparts.

Long-standing fanzine A Love Supreme said on X, formerly Twitter: “At a complete loss for words. What on earth are the club doing?!?!?!

“Let’s hope the players don’t roll over and let the Mags tickle their tummy like the club have.

“Don’t think the club realise how much of a mistake decorating the stadium with Newcastle stuff is. Any good will they’ve developed from the results on the pitch/ getting us back into the Championship could genuinely be completely gone especially if we lose on Saturday.”

The eagerly-anticipated fixture will be the first time the north-east neighbours have met since a 1-1 Premier League draw at St James’ Park in March 2016, with the clubs having taken very different paths during the intervening period.

Sunderland, who had won each of the previous six encounters, spent four seasons in League One after successive relegations from the top flight, while Newcastle have been reinvigorated since being taken over by Amanda Staveley’s Saudi-backed consortium in October 2021.

What the papers say

Paris St Germain and Newcastle are believed to be leading the chase for Kalvin Phillips. According to The Telegraph, the Manchester City midfielder is likely to leave the club this month in search of regular football, having made just two starts for City since his £45million move from Leeds 18 months ago.

The Hull Daily Mail reports Burnley winger Manuel Benson has entered talks with Hull City. The paper says the development comes after the two sides verbally agreed on a loan deal until the end of the season.

Manchester City are reportedly among a wealth of teams interested in 18-year-old Lille defender Leny Yoro. Le 10 Sport, via the Manchester Evening News, says Liverpool and Paris St Germain are also tracking Yoro, but Lille are unlikely to entertain any offers under £78m.

And the Liverpool Echo reports Liverpool are keeping a close eye on Genoa midfielder Morten Frendrup, but are not expected to make a move this month.

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Kylian Mbappe: Le Parisian says Real Madrid and Liverpool both want the Paris St Germain striker, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

Joshua Kimmich: Manchester United and Liverpool are the frontrunners to nab the Bayern Munich midfielder, according to AS.

Mohamed Salah believes Liverpool can win the Premier League after his inspirational display fired the Reds to a crucial yet hard-fought win over Newcastle.

Salah recovered from a first-half penalty miss to score twice and set up another as Jurgen Klopp’s side won a New Year’s Day thriller 4-2 at Anfield to move three points clear at the top.

It was his final game before joining up with Egypt ahead of the upcoming African Cup of Nations.

Salah told Sky Sports: “It’s a great result for us. The game was very intense and we managed to pick up three points and now we are top of the table. We need to stay calm and win every game.”

Asked about his side’s title chances, he added: “We believe a lot. We need to work hard and express ourselves on the field. If we manage to do that and work hard then we can keep winning.”

Salah was pleased not to be signing off from club duty on a low note after seeing a spot-kick – the first of two he had during the game – beaten away by impressive Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.

He said: “I missed the pen – I didn’t want to leave with national team with that performance.

“The first one I was confused because the goalkeeper moved, but the second one I did like I did in training.”

Salah opened the scoring with a tap-in early in the second half. That effort was quickly cancelled out by Alexander Isak, but Liverpool took control through Curtis Jones and Cody Gakpo.

Sven Botman pulled another back, but Salah wrapped up the win the hosts – who racked up 34 shots – deserved after a foul by Dubravka on Diogo Jota.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said: “Nobody should be really surprised that Mo can change a game. The more goals you have, the more you are used to missing chances and understand what you have to do to keep going and improving, and that was what Mo did.

“It was a super game from start to finish, super high intensity. I loved so many aspects of the game except the goals we conceded.

“It was an unbelievable game with and unbelievable atmosphere.”

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe admitted his side were fortunate to get in goalless at half-time, but he had issues with both spot-kicks given against them.

“I’m still confused over the penalties we conceded. The second one especially didn’t look like a penalty,” he said.

“There are two ways to look at it: the challenge on Sean Longstaff (in the second half) was a pen for me and that changes the game massively and then they go up the other end and it wasn’t (a penalty).”

A fifth defeat in six league matches, and one win in 12 away games, has left Newcastle struggling to stay in reach of the top four.

“We have to do everything we can to protect that confidence so that is why I think we need not to over dramatise things,” Howe added.

“It was a really good performance from Liverpool, they made it very difficult for us – we did well to come in 0-0.

“Take away the penalty moments, the goals we conceded were disappointing.”

Mohamed Salah registered a 150th Premier League goal for Liverpool after scoring and missing a penalty in his last involvement before the African Cup of Nations as Jurgen Klopp’s side extended their advantage at the top of the table.

The Egypt international did eventually end the night well in credit as he also provided the assist for substitute Cody Gakpo’s crucial third and also had a hand in Curtis Jones goal which restored their lead.

It moved Liverpool three points clear of second-placed Aston Villa and, more importantly, out of the reach of Manchester City, who are now five behind with a match in hand.

How they cope in Salah’s absence will be crucial to their title aspirations, but the sharpness of Gakpo and Diogo Jota, who won the 86th-minute penalty from which Salah scored his 151st Premier League goal, provides plenty of optimism.

Salah should have put his side in front in the first half when Luis Diaz was brought down by Sven Botman, who added to Alexander Isak’s equaliser to briefly make it 3-2, but his fourth miss in his last 10 spot-kicks provided the determination to put things right after the break.

Newcastle were without Kieran Trippier and Callum Wilson through injury and their 4-5-1 formation suggested they were not looking to be too ambitious in trying to break a near-30-year winless run at Anfield.

That the game was not beyond their reach by half-time owed much to the profligacy of Nunez and the premature desperation shown by Klopp’s side as shots rained in from all angles.

Best of those saw Trent Alexander-Arnold hit the top of the far post from an acute angle from the right wing.

Liverpool wasted numerous first-half opportunities, none more so than Salah’s failure from 12 yards when he fired straight down the middle at Martin Dubravka.

Newcastle’s goalkeeper, in the side due to Nick Pope’s long-term injury, had one of those nights where he looked like stopping almost everything.

He was helped by Nunez in particular, who was guilty of one big miss from Alexander-Arnold’s long pass from inside his own penalty area, shooting straight at Dubravka with Salah charging up in support on his right.

Dubravka saved the Uruguayan’s follow-up effort, with chances also falling to Alexander-Arnold and Jones, in addition to Luis Diaz’s disallowed goal for Nunez’s offside.

Dan Burn also had a goal ruled out for offisde, but it was a rare attack for the visitors.

Nunez looked a different player after half-time. He was picked out by Diaz when Dominik Szoboszlai launched a counter-attack, this time chose the right option in squaring for Salah.

Dubravka denied Nunez from point-blank range and a volley on the run, and even Isak’s well-taken breakaway goal with their first effort since the eighth minute failed to halt the onslaught.

Nunez flicked a header wide, Jones had a shot blocked by Tino Livramento and Dubravka repelled Gakpo.

But Jones was not to be denied, tapping home after Jota had squared from Salah’s pass.

Gakpo bundled home Salah’s cross, Botman headed in from a corner but when the returning Alexis Mac Allister sent Jota racing through, he was brought down by Dubravka and Salah was able to sign off in style.

However, the top-four hopes of Newcastle, with one win in six and and just a solitary victory in their last 12 away league games, look increasingly remote with an 11-point deficit to make up.

Eddie Howe has not given up hope of dragging Newcastle back into the race for a second successive top-four finish.

Howe, with the help of sizeable investment from the club’s Saudi-backed owners, transformed the club from Premier League strugglers to Champions League gatecrashers last season as they muscled aside usual suspects Liverpool – their opponents on Monday – Tottenham and Chelsea to secure a return to European football’s big time.

Their stay proved to be fleeting – defeat by AC Milan earlier this month ended their hopes of a place in the last 16 amid a poor run of form which has left them sitting in ninth place in the Premier League table.

However, asked if the top four was still a target for the current campaign, Howe said: “If that’s possible, then we will go for it. We haven’t written anything off.

“We’re frustrated with the last two results in particular because if we’d won those, we’d be right back in the mix. I see that as a missed opportunity and I know the players feel the same way.

“But we can’t look back, we can only look forward. It’s a challenging and busy month, but one that we need to embrace.”

Back-to-back league losses by lowly Luton and Nottingham Forest – their fifth and sixth defeats in seven games in all competitions – send the Magpies into an intensely difficult January under extreme pressure if they are to achieve their aims for the season.

They begin the new year with a trip to leaders Liverpool and after an FA Cup third-round trip to bitter rivals Sunderland, face club world champions Manchester City at St James’ Park.

Nevertheless, Howe remains undeterred amid the first, and to date relatively muted, rumblings of discontent since he was appointed in November 2021.

Asked about the club’s minimum expectation, he said: “The intention is to finish as high as we can and of course, European football will always be a target for us. I can’t speak on behalf of other people in terms of a minimum expectation.

“My minimum expectation is to achieve the best that we can, and we’ll work towards that on a daily basis.”

Howe has significant credit in the bank as a result of the progress he has made since taking over the reins relinquished by Steve Bruce, and he retains the support of the club’s owners, who accept that last season’s success represented a significant over-achievement in terms of their blueprint for lasting success.

The 46-year-old steered clear of much of the external praise which came his way then, and he intends to use the criticism currently circulating around him to fuel his quest to dispel it.

He said: “I block it out, but of course you know the narrative. I’m not stupid, you know the questions being asked and I think that does fuel me, of course it does.”

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk says he has paid little attention to how their Premier League title rivals have done over the festive period.

After going top of the table with a win at Burnley on Boxing Day, manager Jurgen Klopp afforded the players the luxury of two days off in a five-day spell with no game before Monday’s visit of Newcastle.

In that time, newly crowned Club World Cup champions Manchester City won twice, at Everton and home to Sheffield United, while Arsenal lost against West Ham.


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“We’ve had a couple of days to spend with our families before we focus on another big game on New Year’s Day,” Van Dijk said.

Asked if he paid any attention to their rivals, he said: “Not at all. I didn’t even watch football. I was spending time with my family. We’ve been away so much recently.”

On the title race, he continued: “I don’t speak about winning the league at this point. I don’t think anyone in this team will do that because we know from experience that anything can happen.

“What we are striving for is consistency and just winning the game ahead of us, which has been key to our success previously.”

The Dutchman partnered the impressive 20-year-old Jarell Quansah in central defence at Turf Moor but Klopp’s rotation policy is likely to see Ibrahima Konate return to face Newcastle on Monday evening.

Van Dijk has been impressed by Quansah in his breakthrough season, in which he has already made 14 appearances.

That has eased some of the pressure caused by Joel Matip’s ACL injury which is likely to rule him out for the remainder of the campaign and would have left Klopp with just three centre-backs.

“I think every challenge which came his way so far he has dealt with it outstandingly in my opinion,” the Netherlands captain said.

“He’s 20 years old and is still growing. As a centre-half you get better with experience and I was never this far as Ibou (Konate) and Jarell when I was that young, doing it consistently.

“He just has to keep going as there are going to be times when it is going to be tough and that’s absolutely normal and it’s how you deal with it.

“He’s learning and he’s a good boy and mentally in the right frame of mind and that’s a good start. I’ll be there for him whenever he needs but at the end of the day he will be just fine.”

Quansah’s self-confidence was evident in a television interview he did after the Europa League game against USG in which he sympathised with Matip’s situation but said his plan was always to get ahead of the 32-year-old in the pecking order.

“I think it came across not in the right way but it’s good that he thinks like this,” Van Dijk said.

“I don’t think he meant it in that way. Still, when I was 20 maybe I would say these sort of things but I totally understand where he is coming from.

“But he should not forget what Joel has meant for this club and the success we had.”

Eddie Howe has told Newcastle they need to be “near perfect” if they are to address their dreadful record at Liverpool.

The Magpies will run out at Anfield on Monday evening having not won there in the Premier League since April 1994, when Rob Lee and Andy Cole were their goalscorers, and having lost their last five home and away against Jurgen Klopp’s men.

Newcastle came close to ending that run last season when they led through Alexander Isak’s debut goal with 29 minutes remaining, before Roberto Firmino’s equaliser set up substitute Fabio Carvalho to snatch victory for Liverpool in the eighth minute of stoppage time.

Head coach Howe, whose side was also denied victory over the Reds at St James’ Park by Darwin Nunez’s late double in August, said: “There have been a couple of painful games against Liverpool, for sure.

“The game last season at Anfield was particularly tough for us. This season wasn’t any easier. The positive thing in both of those games was we performed really well and we were competitive and gave Liverpool a really good game.

“For us, we need to be near perfect in this game. This is a really tough game for us. They have been performing very well at home especially, very consistent, really good team, so for us the challenge is that we need to re-find our best form and we need to be mentally very strong.”

Relations between the two benches have been tense in recent times with Klopp, who had been unhappy with Newcastle’s game management, celebrating wildly after Carvalho’s last-ditch winner, and he was no less pleased by Nunez’s heroics on Tyneside.

However, the German was fulsome in his praise for the Magpies following their 1-0 victory over Manchester United at the start of December four days after their gruelling Champions League draw at Paris St Germain, and opposite number Howe insists the only competition is on the pitch.

He said: “I don’t think it’s me against Jurgen Klopp, it’s Liverpool against Newcastle and that’s how we have to look at this game.

“As I said earlier, we have to be very, very good in every aspect of our game because if there’s a weakness in your structure or in your set-up, then they will find it. They’ve got quality players.

“It’s always a great experience to go to Anfield, it’s always a brilliant arena to play in. For us, we learnt some painful lessons last year. Hopefully we can use that experience to good effect this time.”

Eddie Howe is hoping to see the best of record signing Alexander Isak in 2024 as Newcastle attempt to turn their season around.

The £63million Sweden striker has been hampered for much of his 16 months to date at St James’ Park by niggling injuries, but has shown in flashes the talent which prompted the Magpies to invest so heavily in his services during the summer of 2022.

Isak scored his 10th goal of the season from the penalty spot in Tuesday’s disappointing 3-1 home defeat by Nottingham Forest, and will return to the scene of his first on debut for the club on New Year’s Day when they face Liverpool at Anfield.

Asked if there is more to come from the former Real Sociedad player, head coach Howe said: “Yes, I think there is.

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“He’s got so much within himself that he can help us with. He’s an outstanding technician, an outstanding athlete as well, and he knows where the goal is. He can score goals.

“It’s been a frustrating few weeks for Alex because he’s wanted to deliver physically so much more than he’s been able to. He’s been carrying a slight groin problem.

“He looks back to his physical best – I was pleased with him against Nottingham Forest, I thought he did really well. He could have scored probably two or three more goals on a different day. But he’s a real threat.”

Isak opened his Newcastle account with a superb finish to fire the visitors into a first-half lead on Merseyside on August 31 last year, but ultimately left on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline.

That was one of only five Premier League defeats for the Magpies last season but they have found the current campaign, which has included Champions League football for the first time in two decades, far more testing.

The Boxing Day disappointment at the hands of Forest was their eighth reverse of the league campaign and sixth in seven games in all competitions.

Asked if it was a time when everyone within the club had to stick together, a defiant Howe said: “I don’t think there isn’t a time when you have to stick together.

“The best clubs, the best teams do have that inner-strength and inner-belief in each other and team spirit that they can ride difficult moments and they can survive the successes because both are challenging.

“But I’ve got no issues with the players at all. I think we acknowledge that we need to improve and that’s what we’ll endeavour to do.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp joked he is six times happier than he was a year ago with his team top of the Premier League.

Their position may have slipped by the time they play Newcastle on New Year’s Day as Arsenal could reclaim top spot by beating Luton the day before, but it will still not be as bad as 12 months ago.

On January 2 they lost 3-1 at Brighton to sit sixth, 15 points behind the Gunners who were the then leaders.

With just one defeat, and that a controversial one at Tottenham, all season and having dropped only four points at home, Klopp is pleased to see his side back on track and ahead of schedule.

“Six times happier! I can’t even remember (the first game of 2023),” said Klopp when asked how he felt compared to last new year.

“A horrible time last year. It feels better, no doubt about that, but it is not like we really think too much about it.

“We had a lot of good spells in games where we didn’t win or we had lesser-good spells in games we won and these kind of things, so it’s a process.

“This team is in the middle of something and we just try to make the best of it, to deal with different situations. We had a lot of injuries, we are now without key players – both left-backs are not in – but so far we found a way to compete.

“Obviously it’s better to be first than sixth, but both gives you a lot of work to do for the rest of the season.”

While much is made of Liverpool’s attacking options – they have scored in all but one of the last 37 matches – it is their defence on which the foundations of this season have been built.

Their 16 goals conceded is the best in the league and compares favourably with their title-winning 2019-20 campaign when they had conceded just 14 at the same stage. Last season it was 25.

“It started with the defensive record. Everybody buys into how we have to work,” Klopp said.

“How many goals did we concede, 16? Probably eight or nine of them were after we lose the ball and are a bit exposed and that was obviously last year even more a problem.

“We do better now. Recently we stepped up counter-pressing-wise, which helps as well, as that means everybody reacts better – front line, midfield line and in the last line.”

That defensive security also has a positive effect at the other end of the pitch as players know they are not likely to concede many, if at all, so there is rarely a necessity to score a lot.

“We are not desperate (to score) – we were a bit against Manchester United (a 0-0 draw) to be 100 per cent honest – because we don’t think we concede all the time and then we have to score immediately,” said Klopp.

“Even though we conceded quite a lot of times the first goal, but even in these moments we didn’t get desperate. That’s really important.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp faces a hugely-significant January without talismanic top scorer Mohamed Salah but is confident he can find an acceptable solution among the attacking options at his disposal.

Salah will leave for the African Cup of Nations after Monday’s visit of Newcastle, the first of at least six matches which includes an FA Cup tie at Arsenal and a two-legged Carabao Cup semi-final with Fulham.

The 16-goal forward, second behind only Erling Haaland in the Premier League goalscoring stakes with 12 in the top flight this season, will link up with Egypt as they head to the Ivory Coast next week and will potentially be away for over a month.

Klopp has had to deal with it in the past and remains confident his side will do so again as they seek to maintain their place as Premier League leaders.

“It is not the first time, it is a really at least very average situation that you lose your goalscorer but we had it even worse in the past when Sadio (Mane) and Mo left,” he said.

“We came somehow through it and traditionally one of them went pretty far in the tournament, which made it worse.

“We knew the Africa Cup of Nations from time to time appears and Mo has to go and we have (Wataru) Endo as a participant of the Asia Cup (played at the same time) as well, so it is like it is. We have to deal with it and we will.

“Each long-term plan I could have had depends massively on who is available so why should I think in October who I can use when Mo is away when I have no clue who is available?

“We would have solutions today, I hope we have that after the Newcastle game as well.”

The timely return of Diogo Jota after a month out injured is a boost as the Portugal international scored a comeback goal against Burnley on Boxing Day.

Jota’s versatility means he can operate across the forward line, as can Cody Gakpo, while Harvey Elliott has played in Salah’s position even though he is more of a midfielder in Klopp’s system.

“The return of each of the boys is super-important but Diogo especially. Everybody was quite positive about our five options, but I don’t think we had it that often to be honest,” added Klopp.

“Especially with the amount of games we play it is so important these boys can rotate and now with Mo leaving and Endo leaving we need everyone to get back.”

On Jota’s return, Klopp said: “The game is blessed with some of these players who really understand the game on a different level and he is one of them.

“It gives him the chance to see the situations slightly earlier, to adapt to different things the opponent is doing a little bit quicker. On top of that, he is both-footed, a great finisher.

“For these last few games, even when the results were not always outstanding, we found a good rhythm, good fluidity, which is really important.

“It gives you a good feeling, you’d probably call it momentum, and for that you need to be connected and be together in the right moment.”

It is not all good news, however, with left-back Andy Robertson’s recovery from a dislocated shoulder likely to keep him out now for the whole of January.

The Scotland captain, sidelined since October, was expected to return next month but that now may be delayed.

“Robbo still needs more range in his shoulder. Obviously it was a big surgery. (He is) still not even close to team training or whatever,” said Klopp.

“For sure, I think, the full January he has to get closer and closer.”

What the papers say

Newcastle United are confident of landing England midfielder Kalvin Phillips from Manchester City , reports the Daily Telegraph. Juventus, Everton and Crystal Palace are also interested in the 28-year-old.

Manager Mikel Arteta says Arsenal are prepared to bolster the squad in January after injuries left them “exposed”, according to The Guardian. Arteta said the club would “try to make the right calls”.

Raphael Varane, 30, is being chased by former club Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, according to the Daily Mirror via Spanish outlet Sport. The Manchester United defender can negotiate a summer move from January with his contract up at the end of the season.

Any moves by Manchester United in the January transfer window will need to be cleared by Ineos after the company’s deal to buy a 25% share of the club.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Matthijs de Ligt: Arsenal are unlikely to make a move for the Dutch defender, 24, from Bayern Munich but he remains on their radar, reports The Athletic.

Antonee Robinson: Liverpool are interested in Fulham’s US full-back, 26, for a potential January signing, says 90 Min.

Hat-trick hero Chris Wood has warned Nottingham Forest their Boxing Day triumph at Newcastle will count for nothing unless they build upon it.

Forest dragged themselves into 16th place in the Premier League table with a superb 3-1 victory at St James’ Park, but they remain only two points clear of the relegation zone heading into Saturday’s mouth-watering home clash with Manchester United.

Wood’s treble capped an impressive display and handed new boss Nuno Espirito Santo a first win in his second game at the helm, but the 32-year-old New Zealand international knows it can only be considered a start.


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He told Forest TV: “It’s most definitely a step in the right direction. I would never say ‘turned a corner’ because it is only one game and we need to remember than one game doesn’t make four or five.


“We need to work ahead and it’s not going to guarantee that we’re going to play well in the next game. We have to make sure we play well in the next game. It’s only on us as players and staff – and the fans getting behind us, that really helps.

“But I’m sure it will be bouncing, the City Ground, come the 30th.”

Forest showed real character as well as flair and deadly finishing on Tyneside as they fought back from Alexander Isak’s 23rd-minute penalty to level when Wood tapped home from the impressive Anthony Elanga’s pinpoint cross.

The frontman, who left Newcastle for the City Ground during the summer, then produced two deft finishes to make the most of defence-splitting passes from first Elanga and then defender Murillo and wrap up the win.

He said: “Look, we know Newcastle are a a top, top side – I know it first had – and we knew coming here was going to be very tough. They’re a good side, good players.

“They weren’t in the Champions league for no reason and they’re not near the top of the league for no reason because they are a good side.

“We just had to keep working on what we could do. We took risks, we took chances – sometimes they paid off, and sometimes they didn’t and we got caught. But that’s the type of football we wanted to play, that’s what we were given the license to try to do, and thankfully it worked.”

Wood admitted his second Premier League hat-trick – his first came for Burnley in a 4-0 win at Wolves in April 2021 – prompted some mixed feelings, but was no less welcome as a result.

He said: “It is bittersweet, but it’s fantastic. I’m obviously over the moon with the performance of the lads and the goals and the three points, most importantly.

“It was an interesting place to come back to. I really enjoyed my time up here, I’ve got a lot of close friends up here and things like that. It’s bittersweet, but I’m definitely going to take it.”

Eddie Howe has warned his Newcastle players that no-one is guaranteed a place in his team as he attempts to turn around an alarming slump in form.

Boxing Day’s humbling 3-1 home defeat by Nottingham Forest was the Magpies’ sixth in seven games in all competitions, a run during which their first Champions League adventure in two decades has drawn to a close and hopes of a second successive Carabao Cup final appearance have gone up in smoke.

Head coach Howe hopes to have more of his injured troops back to assist those who have been wearied by a schedule which brought 10 games in 30 days during December and he will have no qualms about shaking things up, with the January transfer window also just days away.

He said: “I’ll be prepared to make any change that I think can benefit either the performance or the result and of course players are accountable for what they deliver.

“No amount of credit in the bank is big enough, you have to earn everything you get from the game. I’m a firm believer in that, so players know they have to perform and we have to change our short-term form for sure.”

Tuesday’s defeat, which ended a run of seven consecutive Premier League wins at St James’ Park, was all the more painful in that it arrived three days after a 1-0 reverse at Luton and courtesy of a rare hat-trick from former Newcastle striker Chris Wood.

More worryingly, it further damaged the prospects of repeating last season’s top-four Premier League finish and the rewards it would bring, and with fixtures against high-flying Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Villa to come either side of an FA Cup trip to Sunderland, alarm bells are ringing in some quarters.

Howe, who has presided over a remarkable rise on Tyneside since taking up the reins in November 2021, remains calm and retains the support of the club’s Saudi-backed hierarchy, and his response will be to attempt to address his team’s ongoing issues on the training pitch, something for which he has had precious little time in recent weeks.

He said: “The difficulty for the players that have played the majority of the minutes in recent weeks has been they just haven’t been on the grass.

“They have been in between games, of course, resting and then building up for another game three days later, and possibly we’ve suffered from not having that training ground time.

“That’s the schedule, we knew that that was going to be the case, but I just think that our inability to rotate the team has maybe caught up with us in that respect.”


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A maiden victory for new Forest boss Nuno Espirito Santo extended his record against Newcastle from his days at Wolves and Tottenham to eight games without defeat.

He said: “I didn’t realise that. But more than my individual situation, today was a huge, huge, huge moment for us because I’ve just been told at St James’ Park for the last two seasons who were the teams that achieved good results here, and there are not too many so Forest did very well.”

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