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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Eddie Howe denies ‘hard but fair’ Newcastle are out to ruffle Champions League feathers
DORTMUND: Eddie Howe has dismissed the suggestion that Newcastle United are out to intentionally ‘ruffle the feathers’ of the established Premier League and Champions League elite.
The Magpies’ head coach said his players are only ever focused on winning, no matter the opposition or the cost.
Newcastle take on Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday night in what very much feels like a must-win encounter. They arrive in Germany in good form, having beaten both Manchester United at Old Trafford and Arsenal at St. James’ Park in the Premier League in the past week.
Their typically physically robust style has got under the skin of a number of rival coaches, with Gunners’ boss Mikel Arteta the latest to complain about Howe and his players. It has prompted some to compare Newcastle and their coach to Atletico Madrid and Diego Simeone. It is not a comparison Howe seems to mind, though he does not believe it is justified.
“I’ve got no desire to upset anybody, just to try and win,” he said. “However we do that, I’ve got no issue with that, as long as we do it within the spirit of the game.
“We are competitive. We’re hugely ambitious and full compliments to the players on how they handled (Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Arsenal).
“We’re not intentionally ruffling any feathers, we’re just trying to win. I want the players to stand up for each other. I want them to play competitive football. I want us to be strong in certain moments, which we have to be, and I think we did all of those things on Saturday. I’ve got no issue at all with how we played.”
Asked about the Atletico comparisons, he added: “We just play the game. Look, I think we play hard. We play the game in a really strong way because we want to win. But I think we play fair and we will do the same again.”
Howe’s style is without doubt physically demanding of his players. As a result, the number of games at Champions League and top-six Premier League level has taken its toll on the squad. Newcastle have just 16 fit senior players available in Dortmund, three of whom are goalkeepers.
“We are (light on players), there’s no denying that, but we’ve been stretched for two weeks,” said Howe. “There’s nothing we can do. There’s no transfer window. As I say, a lot of the players have longer-term issues but the players we do have have stepped up and have given more. That is the mentality we’re going to need in the coming weeks.
“All we can do is approach the games in the best way we can. The international break will come at a good time but we’ll get very little relief from that in terms of players back after.”
Already missing key men such as Alexander Isak, Sven Botman and Sandro Tonali, this week Howe has had to deal with two more long-term absentees: Matt Targett and first-team regular Dan Burn.
“Unfortunately, Dan will be out for some time I think,” Howe said. “It’s another long-term problem, a couple of months. It’s a speculative number for us. He landed on his spine. There’s a problem with the base of his spine, so a huge blow.
“He’s been gigantic for us since he signed, for lots of different reasons: his character, determination to win, experience, and versatility as well. It’s not just one position we’re losing, we’re losing his ability to play center-back. It’s something we have to roll with.”
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