Eddie Howe wants his Newcastle United team to “keep pushing boundaries” ahead of the visit of Leeds United on Saturday.
Howe took over in November 2021 with the club second-bottom of the Premier League, but a remarkable recovery saw them finish 11th.
They have continued that impressive form into this campaign and currently sit third, above the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.
With fans setting their sights on Champions League qualification or even an unlikely title charge, Howe wants his players to kick on from their lofty position.
“We have to keep pushing boundaries,” Howe told reporters. “We’re not even halfway through the season and anything can happen. Dipping of standards can happen naturally so we need to stay on top of everything.”
Newcastle’s final game of 2022 sees them host a Leeds side in need of points to stave off the threat of relegation.
Jesse Marsch’s team are 15th, but sit only two points above the drop zone and were beaten by Manchester City 3-1 in their first game back after the World Cup on Wednesday.
Despite Leeds’ precarious position, Marsch is not worried about the morale of his players.
“The belief is high here. That’s not an issue,” he said. “We believe in our players. We believe in our mentality and we’re going to get better, we know that, so that’s the focus.
“We need to just continue to work on our defensive responsibilities and our understanding of how to be more stable.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Newcastle United – Miguel Almiron
Almiron has scored nine in his last 14 Premier League games, as many as he managed in his previous 112 appearances in the competition. With a goal here, he would become only the second Paraguayan to score double figure goals in a single Premier League campaign after Roque Santa Cruz.
Leeds United – Rodrigo
Rodrigo has scored nine Premier League goals so far this season, more than double any of his Leeds team-mates. He failed to get on the scoresheet against City, but will be hoping to get back among the goals here.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Only Liverpool (45) and City (43) have earned more home points than Newcastle (40) in the Premier League in 2022. The Magpies last earned more points at St James’ Park in a single calendar year in 2016 (42), while they last did so when spending 100 per cent of their time in the Premier League in 2002 (47).
– Newcastle have won each of their last six Premier League games, last having a longer such run in September/October 1996 (seven under Kevin Keegan).
– Leeds are unbeaten in their last three away league games against Newcastle (won one, drawn two) – they have never gone four without defeat at St James’ Park before.
– Before Newcastle last faced Leeds in January, they were second-bottom of the Premier League with 12 points, one win in 20 games and were 10 points behind the Whites. Since and including that game – a 1-0 win for Newcastle – the Magpies have earned 70 points, more than double the amount Leeds have.
– This is Leeds’ first league game on New Year’s Eve since 2011, and a 4-1 defeat at Barnsley. Meanwhile, Newcastle have lost seven of their last eight games on the day (won one), with this their first since a 2-0 loss at Spurs in 2005.