Title race to go into overdrive

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The Independent Online
Terry McDermott yesterday forecast that Newcastle United's spluttering championship challenge will come alive again at Anfield today.

Newcastle, 10 points clear at one stage, have seen their seemingly invincible title lead turned into a three-point deficit on Manchester United, with Liverpool five points behind. But Newcastle do still have two games in hand over United and as he prepared to return to the ground he and Kevin Keegan graced as players, the Magpies' assistant manager refused to accept a run of one win in five games had been fatal.

"Of course this is a big game, but there's one thing for certain,"McDermott said. "If we win eight games no one can do anything about it, and that's the way we've got to look at things.

"Liverpool will have a big part to say in the title, but whereas if they don't win they'll feel it's slipped away from them, we can afford to drop a couple of points."

McDermott was giving nothing away about Newcastle's possible line-up. "Kevin hasn't told the players so he's not going to tell the press.

For Liverpool Jamie Redknapp will continue in place of the disappointed Michael Thomas, but Neil Ruddock is likely to be missing at the back, Steve Harkness coming in.

Thomas, who had been in outstanding form during Liverpool's 20-match unbeaten run which ended at Nottingham Forest, feels that he has been made a scapegoat after being left out of the FA Cup semi-final match against Aston Villa.

He did not even merit a place on the bench with manager Roy Evans's decision coinciding with the player refusing sign a new deal offered to him last Thursday.