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Focus Less On Newcastle, And More On Us

Having watched Newcastle last night against Leicester City I was reminded that we aren't facing Barcelona on Sunday, contrary to what some would have you believe.

Stu Forster/Getty Images

It's easy to get lost in the hype of something, isn't it?

Newcastle's fortunes seemed to take a sharp upturn on Friday when Rafael Benitez quickly replaced the bumbling Steve McClaren as their manager, and the speed of which the appointment was confirmed was staggering. With that, understandably, came an immense amount of hype and I have to admit I was nervous.

You all know what I mean, right? You suddenly start thinking up loads of different scenarios where in your head Newcastle come out victorious. That's what Newcastle will be hoping, anyways. They might not admit it but I bet staving off relegation is on an equal footing to beating us - in changing manager, they've given themselves a proper chance at achieving both when this time last week they looked almost certainly doomed. Fair play to them - if any club knows just what changing your manager for short term gains can do, it's us. I'm sure we can sympathise with their decision to change the manager at such a late stage of the season.

Suddenly, with McClaren out the door, they're firm favourites in a game that recently they've been absolutely appalling in. As odd as that seems, it's probably true - considering their half-decent home form, the bounce that having a new manager brings with him and the raised confidence their supporters are feeling, it's fair enough.

The derby fixture is a special tie, but we can't let negativity seep into our thoughts. They're second bottom of the league - below us, remember - struggle to defend, and struggle even more to score goals. If this was a game against any other club occupying nineteenth place, would we be approaching it with the same kind of trepidation?

Our players will be immensely confident going into this. The majority of this squad have tasted victory against Newcastle on several occasions in recent years and as a result we should feel fairly relaxed about the game ahead. The pressure is on our rivals to perform, not us.

I guess in writing this I was hoping to reassure people that we have to go into Sunday's game with our head held high. The players seem to be playing well, and we don't appear to have problems scoring goals against any side. We should feel fairly confident that we can go to St James on Sunday and score goals and win the game.

I watched Newcastle play last night against Leicester and though they looked better organised, they were still poor. They still failed to create chances, they still failed to defend, they still failed to summon the passion and drive required to pull themselves out of the shit and get back in the game.

Leicester - though sat fairly comfortably at the top of the league - did not play well, and as a neutral watching it I felt the game was there for the taking if Newcastle really wanted it. Importantly, they didn't seem to have it in them to graft for the point that they deserved. Kasper Schmeichel was barely tested, and the Newcastle midfield struggled to get beyond the lone striker and support him which meant their chances were few and far between.

Sissoko looked disinterested, Wijnaldum was wasteful, and generally there wasn't anyone grabbing people by the scruff of the neck and demanding more of them. They had a new manager in the dugout, the points where there for the taking if they wanted them and that was the best they could do?

I'm not saying that Sunday is going to be a breeze. Far from it. What I am saying, though, is that we aren't facing Barcelona or Real Madrid at the weekend, we're facing a side that has struggled all season to score goals and stop them going in at the other end. We're not playing a side brimming with confidence, we're playing a side who have struggled much like we have.

It's important that we as fans show faith in the players that will go on the pitch on Sunday attempting to bring us our seventh derby win in a row.

Don't let the fact Newcastle have knee-jerked in replacing their manager fool us - this is a very poor side we're facing on Sunday, and if we are going to stay in the Premier League we have to be targeting three points. I know for a fact that is how Sam Allardyce will be approaching the tie, and so should we.

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