London (AFP) – Eddie Howe says his side must be the “best Newcastle we can be” as he aims to take advantage of Manchester City’s emotionally draining Champions League exit when the teams meet on Sunday.
City were minutes away from reaching the Champions League final before Real Madrid scored twice to force extra time at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.
Pep Guardiola’s side eventually crashed to a 3-1 defeat in the semi-final second leg, losing 6-5 on aggregate, to end their hopes of winning the competition for the first time.
But the Premier League leaders have little time to lick their wounds before returning to action in a crucial clash with Newcastle this weekend.
The defending champions are one point ahead of Liverpool with four games left in a tense Premier League title race but would kick off at the Etihad behind Jurgen Klopp’s men if the Reds win or draw against Tottenham on Saturday.
Newcastle boss Howe believes City could be vulnerable following their devastating loss in Madrid but he also warned his players to guard against a potential backlash.
“It can work both ways — it can emotionally affect them in a positive or a negative (way),” Howe said at his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“We have to prepare for the best Man City, so we need to be the best Newcastle we can be.”
Mid-table Newcastle gave Liverpool a tough test last weekend but were unable to stop Klopp’s quadruple-chasing team from grinding out a 1-0 win on Tyneside.
Howe knows Newcastle will have to play with more focus and drive if they are to put a huge dent in City’s title defence, describing it as the “toughest test”.
“I was a little bit disappointed with the performance last week,” he said. “I thought we could have played better but we were still close. I hope we get even closer this time.
“Our weakness against Liverpool was a lack of bite and intensity that we have had in recent months and has been the hallmark of our success.
“We didn’t give the crowd enough on reflection and we can’t be flat. We have to come out all guns blazing.”
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