Shearer expects Newcastle to avoid relegation

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Newcastle manager Alan Shearer is confident that his struggling side can avoid relegation from the Premier League this weekend when the Magpies take on fifth-place Aston Villa.

Shearer, who took over last month, needs his team to at least avoid defeat on Sunday and for the results of fellow strugglers Hull and Sunderland to go his way if Newcastle are to stay in the top-flight.

"We know what's at stake, we know what's riding on it and I am pretty confident we can go there and give our great fans something to shout about," Shearer said today.

"I am totally convinced we will get out of it and I think, more importantly, so are my players."

Shearer's optimism contrasts with the fact that Newcastle have only one victory in their last 12 league games and are coming off a 1-0 defeat by Fulham last Saturday.

"I asked them to forget last weekend's result, whether we thought we played well or whether we thought we played badly or had good decisions, bad decisions," said Shearer, a former Newcastle striker and fan favorite.

"That's gone, we can't change that. What we can change is this weekend and I believe if we go there and win, it will be a very good day for us."

There are four candidates for the drop, two of whom will join West Bromwich Albion, already condemned to Championship football next season.

Middlesbrough have 32 points and Newcastle are on 34. They seek to leapfrog the two currently safe clubs, Hull with 35 and Sunderland on 36.

What's giving Newcastle further hope is that Hull's next opponent are Manchester United, although the champion are expected to field a second-string side as they prepares for next Wednesday's Champions League final against Barcelona in Rome.

United defender Wes Brown, who has been sidelined by a foot problem since January, could make his first-team return, while Darren Fletcher may get to wear the captain's armband as he is suspended for the Champions League final.

Sunderland also have a tough task at home to FA Cup finalist Chelsea.

At the other end of the table, Liverpool needs only a draw at home to Tottenham to be sure of finishing second behind Man United but ahead of Chelsea.

Anfield will bid farewell to defender Sami Hyypia, who helped Liverpool win a string of domestic and European trophies in a 10-year stint with the club. He has signed a two-year deal with German club Bayer Leverkusen.

"I won't like being the center of attention, not at all. But in this case I have no choice," the Finn said.

Fourth-place Arsenal, who must play in the qualifiers for next season's Champions League, host Stoke City. The Gunners, with nothing to play for, will be lifted by today's announcement by the Football Association that it had cleared captain Cesc Fabregas of two misconduct charges.

Further down the table, a place in the second-tier Europa League is up for grabs.

Everton and Villa have already secured their berths in the competition which will replace the UEFA Cup. England's third and final entrant will be either Fulham or Tottenham.

Roy Hodgson, who managed to steer Fulham away from what looked like certain relegation at the very end of last season, is in a strong position to guide his team into Europe. The west London club are two points clear of Spurs and face Everton, Chelsea's FA Cup final opponent on 30 May.