Newcastle United must rise to the occasion and play without any fear when they host top-four rivals Tottenham Hotspur in a Premier League clash on Sunday, manager Eddie Howe said.
Newcastle are fourth in the league standings with 56 points – three ahead of Spurs, who have played one more game – and are looking to finish in the top four and return to the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.
Asked if it was the most important game of Newcastle’s season, Howe on Friday told reporters: “I wouldn’t have an issue with anyone saying that. We have risen to these types of games this season. Hopefully we can find another gear again.
“It’s what we crave as professionals. You want the big games and you want it to mean something. We’re determined to express ourselves in the best way possible. We don’t want to play with any fear or restraints and we want to give the best us.
“A lot will depend on this week we have coming up. We have a three-game week and they are huge moments with nine games to play for.”
Newcastle will be anxious to bounce back from last week’s 3-0 loss at Aston Villa, and Howe said he had seen positive signs from the squad in the aftermath of the defeat.
“It was an uncharacteristic performance from us. We have been so consistent home and away,” Howe said.
“Training has been very good, the attitude of players has been very good. There has been no fallout from the game and no energy lost. I’m confident we will perform, but we are playing a very good team.
“The lads have been focused and they are ready for what’s ahead rather than looking backwards. We have to go again now at the crucial end of the season.”
Newcastle’s bid to secure European football will be boosted by the return of Miguel Almiron, who missed four league games due to a thigh injury before making a substitute appearance against Villa last week.
Howe said Paraguayan Almiron, who has scored 11 league goals this season, could be in line for a start against Spurs.
“He’s trained this week and trained well as Miggy usually does. I was pleased to see him back on the pitch but prior to that he had quite a long absence so we’ll wait and see,” Howe said.
“I’ll try and make the best decision for him and the team.”