Taylor: Newcastle run will not be derailed by injuries


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The Independent Football

Newcastle full-back Ryan Taylor is hoping for more of the same as the club attempts to cope with a defensive crisis.

The 27-year-old has been a constant presence in the back five which has started each of the Magpies' 14 Premier League games to date this season, a consistency of selection which has proved a significant factor in their fine start.

However, that will all change at Norwich on Saturday with Steven Taylor likely to miss the rest of the season after undergoing Achilles surgery and central defensive partner Fabricio Coloccini battling against a thigh strain following last weekend's 3-0 home defeat by Chelsea.

That has left manager Alan Pardew facing a major selection headache, although the fact that he will be able to rely on keeper Tim Krul and full-backs Danny Simpson and Ryan Taylor will be a source of comfort.

The latter has been delighted with his own form, barring a tough afternoon at Manchester City last month, although he is refusing to take anything for granted.

He said: "I was happy, and then I had a little blip against Manchester City. But it's been a fantastic season for me so far and hopefully, that can continue.

"But I am just going to take one game as it comes and not look too far ahead of myself because I know there are players wanting to get into the position I am in and get into the team. I can't get too carried away, I can only go to the next game and at the moment, I am very happy."

The right-footed Ryan Taylor, of course, has spent the entire campaign playing at left-back after being drafted in on an emergency basis in the wake of Jose Enrique's departure for Liverpool in August.

After a shaky start, he has eased into the role and has even contributed superb winning goals against Sunderland and Everton to firmly establish himself in the team.

What initially looked like a stop-gap appointment has become a feature of Newcastle's starting line-up, and even Taylor himself admits he did not expect to be playing there 14 games in.

He said: "I didn't expect it, no, if I am truthfully honest, but I didn't see why I couldn't stay in the team if I played well. So far, the Gaffer has kept faith in me and we are sitting sixth in the league and everyone is very happy at the minute."

However, things could change this weekend as Pardew comes to terms with the injuries which have torn his overachieving rearguard apart.

Pardew has already told James Perch, who replaced Coloccini last Saturday, that he will start and with Mike Williamson only just back in training after a long-term ankle injury and Tamas Kadar short of senior experience, he may otherwise have to be inventive.

Summer signing Davide Santon, like Ryan Taylor, can play in either full-back position and could be handed a first Premier League start, while Simpson has lined up in the middle in an emergency in the past.

After the trip to Norwich, the Magpies face Swansea and West Bromwich Albion on Tyneside before heading for Bolton on Boxing Day, a run of fixtures from which they would expect, on their early-season form, to take a significant proportion of the points on offer.

Meanwhile, far from the injury worries on Tyneside, Lionel Messi insists Spanish giants Barcelona can match their feat of two years ago in adding the Club World Cup to their Champions League and La Liga titles.

In 2009, the Fifa club trophy was the icing on the cake for an all-conquering Barça side. This year Barcelona are one trophy down on that having lost the Copa del Rey to Real Madrid – and they face serious opposition in the Club World Cup in Japan from South American champions Santos, finally emerging from the shadows of the Pele-led side of the 1960s.

Santos also boast a new footballing superstar in Neymar, but Messi is confident Barcelona can emerge triumphant again.

He said: "We're always under the obligation to win. To my mind it's a really important tournament and we'll try to come out on top, just as we always do. We can't afford to relax either. Everyone thought the two favourites were going to reach the final last time and Internacional [of Brazil] fell short.

"We're staying cool, calm and collected, and nobody knows what this team's capable of better than we do."

Santos won back-to-back Intercontinental Cups in 1962 and 1963 and though Neymar is only 19 he has already caught the eye of Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Xavi.

"Neymar is very talented and has amazing ability. He seems like a player destined to make a difference for any side he plays for," said Xavi.

The opening match of the tournament is tomorrow when Kashiwa Reysol of host nation Japan take on New Zealand's Auckland City at the Toyota Stadium in Nagoya, with the winners of the preliminary meeting Monterrey of Mexico in the quarter-finals. The victor in that will face Santos in the semi-finals.