Newcastle alert to danger of Owen pace

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The Independent Football

The Newcastle manager, Bobby Robson, will instruct his players to pay close attention to Michael Owen as the Magpies aim to keep their title dreams alive in the Premiership game at Liverpool tonight.

The England striker was rested by Liverpool's assistant manager, Phil Thompson, for the 2-0 victory at Fulham on Saturday, which means that he will be fresh as he attempts to maintain his reign of terror over the Magpies.

Owen has scored no fewer than 12 goals – including two hat-tricks – in seven outings against the men from St James' Park and will be gunning for more as the Reds attempt to keep up with the championship pace-setters.

Newcastle head for Anfield knowing that a second successive defeat, following Saturday's reverse at the hands of Arsenal, might end their championship dreams. But while Robson has insisted all along that Newcastle would probably finish behind the big three, he is determined that they will stay in the race as long as they can.

Asked how to stop Owen, he replied: "Tie his legs together. We'll just heavily mark him with cover. What else can you do? There'll be a man designated to play against him on that side. We know who it will be and we've got to give that player every confidence that he can do it with cover.

"I think Phil [Thompson] left Owen out on Saturday to make sure he was fresh for us. He's learned fast, that's good managerial skill and we're aware of that.

"He's a top little gun. He's had the hamstring problem which curtailed him a little bit for several weeks, but he seems to be over that now.

"Fortunately for England and Liverpool that hamstring problem that he had and which kept persisting and recurring seems to have gone.

"He's a very alert, bright little fella, a good little finisher and a good mover off the ball. It's not so much on the ball what he does, it's his movement off the ball. He tucks it away now. He's better on his left side than he was. He's improving there all the time, so he's lethal."

Owen's goals have been a major factor in Liverpool's recent domination of Newcastle but, having broken their London hoodoo already this season, the Magpies are intent on laying to rest the ghost of seven successive defeats at Anfield as well as avenging their 2-0 defeat at St James' Park on September 30.

"I would have thought there were other clubs in the country who have gone to Liverpool and lost seven times as well," said Robson. "I don't think we're the only team.

"That's the measure of the club. They've been one of our best and leading clubs for many, many years from the days of Shankly through Paisley and so forth."

Newcastle head for Anfield with no new injury worries but are prepared to adapt. Aaron Hughes and Andy O'Brien are the main candidates for the job of picking up Owen, and there could be a change up front too where the fit-again Carl Cort is pushing the youngster Shola Ameobi for the place vacated by the injured Craig Bellamy.

The Welshman is continuing his rehabilitation from the torn knee tendon which has interrupted his season, but will remain on the sidelines for several weeks yet.

There is better news of the midfielder Kieron Dyer, who is trying to persuade his manager that he will be ready for Arsenal's return visit to Tyneside for Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final.

Dyer will undergo a further scan on a stress fracture of his foot after promising-looking X-rays yesterday, but he will not be rushed back.

Liverpool expect Steven Gerrard back in training by the weekend after his recent groin problem, while Jamie Redknapp will play for the reserves this week as part of his comeback from long-term injury.

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