Thursday, April 30, 2009

Newcastle's next step in survival goes through Anfield

Each year as the relegation battle heats up, one typically team steps-up with a series of top-shelf performance as they look for the "great escape." While there are countless examples across the leagues, the basic similarities are the same as a team rises to the summons their best matches for the year and somehow manages to climb above the drop zone.

Unfortunately at this time that "script" hasn't been followed as the Premier League's bottom table sides, excluding West Brom, are effectively serving up performances that will do little to change their fate. This little oddity has provided Newcastle a morsel of hope as they look to leap over free-falling Hull City and avoid the drop.

With four matches remaining in Newcastle's death struggle, Saturdays test at Anfield is quite obviously the most challenging one but in the throes of needing points they need to utilize a wise tactical approach and look to squeeze out a draw at the very least. While such a task even in the most dowdy of defensive efforts is a great one, the Magpie's need to play with a level of intensity that is befitting of saving the club from relegation and dare I say, deserving of their manager Mr. Allan Shearer. Of course the bigger question is still, do they have it in their claret to play with the level of intensity that number 9 did through his years. While there is little debating that the quality has been lacking and certainly finishing ability seems to have flown the coop what is most alarming is the lack of intensity that has been shown of late. If Newcastle is to avoid the highlight "showdowns" next year between Roy Keane's Ipswich Town, Nottingham Forest or newly promoted Leicester City the level of intensity needs to be amplified exponentially.

Returning to the relegation "battle" of all clubs, it appears to be one in which the combatants, excluding West Brom, are merely looking to "punch the clock" and it is very possible that we might see a side survive relegation with one of the lowest point totals in recent history. In a curious piece of scheduling trivia to add to this concern both Middlesbrough, Hull City and Newcastle face two European destined clubs who, in the midst of the fight for points will not be so forgiving to their woeful colleague's.

If things weren't complicated enough against Liverpool, injuries have reared their ugly head as Oba Martins, Mark Viduka and Jonás Gutiérrez are all questionable with José Enrique out although they will receive a boost with Joey Barton returning to the starting eleven.