Keegan demands supreme effort


KEVIN KEEGAN takes his faltering Newcastle side into battle against title favourites Liverpool tonight (live Sky Sports, 8.0) warning. Only our best will do."

Keegan knows nothing short of a five star performance will halt leaders Liverpool who would go 10 points clear of the Magpies with a victory at St James' Park.

Liverpool are the team of the moment while fifth placed Newcastle have gone five Premiership games without a win and taken only one point from visits to Premiership strugglers Nottingham Forest and Coventry.

Keegan believes Newcastle have only played to their full potential twice this season, in the October demolition jobs against Manchester United and Ferencvaros, and is praying they will be firing on all cylinders tonight.

"We have only picked up one point in our last two away games and this is really not good enough if we have aspirations to be champions," admitted Keegan.

"That's why our match with Liverpool is a very big game and we know we'll have to be at our very best if we're going to get anything out of it.

Keegan is under pressure to deliver some silverware after investing so heavily in building his squad but admits that unless Newcastle show a dramatic improvement soon their chase for honours could be limited to the UEFA Cup, where they have reached the last eight.

"We know we've got to improve if we're going to win anything this season, warned Keegan. "Otherwise, in a month's time, we'll be saying at least we've still got Europe."

"We seem to be a team which at the moment needs to go a goal down before we start playing. We weren't this way last season and it's got to change. That's the thing we've been talking about this week as we have prepared for Liverpool.

"We know that we can do everything better. We can defend better and we can be more creative. Everything can improve."

Newcastle's last Premiership win was against Middlesbrough at St James' Park on November 3rd and a victory over Liverpool would give them a badly needed injection of confidence to take into the remainder of the busy Christmas and New Year programme.

"If we can get a result against Liverpool I'll see it as a confidence builder," said Keegan.

Liverpool head for Tyneside bursting with confidence after successive demolition jobs against Middlesbrough and Forest and Keegan believes they are worthy favourites to lift the title.

Boss Roy Evans his confident that red hot Robbie Fowler will have shaken off an ankle injury in time to face the Magpies.

Fowler, who has plundered five goals in his last two games, hobbled off against in midweek but is responding well to treatment. Patrik Berger is on stand by.

Mark Wright, who also came off against Forest because of the effects of a flu bug, is hoping he will be well enough to make the trip to St James' Park.

Newcastle are without David Batty, who completes his three match ban, and injured trio John Beresford, Faustino Asprilla and Steve Howey.

Howey fears he could be out for another eight to 10 weeks with calf injuries. He has not kicked a ball since he scored in the win over Aston Villa on the last day of September and has another date with his specialist this week.

"The last operation has not worked and we seemed to be really at a dead end," said Keegan.