Souness targets Huth and Dawson for youthful defence

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Aside from boosting their bank balance by more than £13m, the sale of Jonathan Woodgate has had surprisingly little impact on Newcastle. Injuries have meant he has still to play a game for Real Madrid and yesterday the Newcastle manager, Graeme Souness, revealed that he has targeted Chelsea's Robert Huth and Nottingham Forest's highly rated centre-half Michael Dawson as replacements.

Aside from boosting their bank balance by more than £13m, the sale of Jonathan Woodgate has had surprisingly little impact on Newcastle. Injuries have meant he has still to play a game for Real Madrid and yesterday the Newcastle manager, Graeme Souness, revealed that he has targeted Chelsea's Robert Huth and Nottingham Forest's highly rated centre-half Michael Dawson as replacements.

Should Souness buy both 20-year-olds he will be left with considerable change from the fee received from Madrid. Neither has played much this season, the giant Huth's sole Premiership appearance for Chelsea came against Middlesbrough, although he has featured in Jürgen Klinsmann's German squads.

After making an impact two seasons ago in Paul Hart's young Nottingham Forest side that lost in the play-off semi-finals to Sheffield United, Dawson was expected to secure a move to the Premiership. However, Souness' interest comes after a fortnight in which Forest have conceded five headed goals, which led to Dawson requiring a vote of confidence from his manager, Joe Kinnear. "I was just checking on him," said Souness of his trip to see Forest play Watford. "I see him as one for the future."

Newcastle's current central-defensive pairing of Robbie Elliott and Andy O'Brien should not be unduly stretched by Dynamo Tbilisi at St James' Park tonight in the second of Newcastle's Uefa Cup group games. Souness has been unable to send anyone to Georgia to watch Tbilisi live, although their recent form has hardly been impressive - three straight defeats.

Souness has had to rely on videos and his own memories of Tbilisi that stretch back to 1979 when they knocked Liverpool out of the European Cup. "I only have bad memories of Tbilisi and I'm trying to push them out of my head," Souness said. "At that time they were champions of all Russia, were an excellent team and deserved to beat us.

"I just remember that it was a long, long way from home and a long way back," he added. "We had the usual - woken up in the middle of the night with supporters outside our hotel."

Those Middlesbrough fans with enough money to pay for a flight to Rome would probably have wanted to be drawn away to Lazio rather than face them at the Riverside. However, the symbolism of Lazio coming to Teesside is hard to overstate, even if the Italians, awash with debt, are not the force they were when Sven Goran Eriksson took them to the scudetto four years ago. Boro have more money and may have better players.

It would have been fitting had Gaizka Mendieta, the man whose career disintegrated amid the grandeur of the Stadio Olimpico after a £29m move from Valencia but who rediscovered his zest for football in the less distinguished setting of Middlesbrough, played. A cruciate ligament injury has all but ended the Basque playmaker's season, although, unbeaten in seven matches, Middlesbrough are not short of form.

Lazio have seldom proved as formidable as their advance billing but they recovered well to hold Internazionale to a 1-1 draw at San Siro last weekend. The Riverside will represent an altogether stranger venue and one that may prove no less forbidding.

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