Eddie Howe has signed a new long-term contract with Newcastle United on the eve of their first Premier League game of the season against Nottingham Forest.

Howe was appointed as Magpies boss last November on a deal until 2024 following the sacking of Steve Bruce.

Newcastle's wealthy owners charged the former Bournemouth manager with the task of guiding the club out of the Premier League relegation zone to safety at the start of a new era following their takeover.

It was very much mission accomplished for the 44-year-old, as the Tyneside club surged up the table to finish last season in 11th place.

Howe was on Friday rewarded with a new deal as his side prepare to take on top-flight newcomers Forest at St James' Park.

"It's a great feeling to commit my future to this incredible club," said Howe. "I'm extremely proud to be the head coach of Newcastle United and have enjoyed every moment here.

"I'd like to take the opportunity to acknowledge my coaching team, the players, staff and supporters. They make it a very special place to be every day.

"I'd also like to extend my gratitude to our owners and to Dan Ashworth [Newcastle sporting director]. We are still at the start of our journey, but this is an exciting time to be a part of Newcastle United and I'm very excited about the future together."

Ashworth said: "I'm delighted Eddie has committed his long-term future to Newcastle United. He is an incredibly talented leader and has had a huge impact since being appointed in November.

"In the short period of time I have worked with him, I have seen how much of a diligent, detailed, hard-working coach and leader he is.

"This is great news for the club and I am looking forward to working with Eddie and our colleagues on our exciting journey ahead."

Newcastle United had not played a game under their new ownership group last October when Amanda Staveley confirmed a desire to win the Premier League on Tyneside.

"We have the same ambitions as PSG and Manchester City in terms of trophies," the co-owner added.

Newcastle were winless and in the bottom three, where they would remain until February, so this seemed an optimistic target, even given the wealth of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.

The Magpies are highly unlikely to challenge City for their title this season either, but they are at least looking up now.

From the date of the takeover until the end of the season, Newcastle earned the sixth-most points in the division (46); in 2022, they have earned the fourth-most (38); in points-per-game terms, Eddie Howe's men are third for the calendar year (2.0).

Howe – appointed a month after Staveley arrived at St James' Park – has since had the benefit of a pre-season, while Newcastle have again invested in the transfer market following January's world-leading £90million outlay.

So, how far can Newcastle go in 2022-23? And which of the established big boys might be under threat?

'Europe is definitely a goal'

Staveley's aims appeared quite modest by the time Bruno Guimaraes took to the podium in his introductory news conference following a £35m switch from Lyon.

"We want more, we want to win the Champions League," the Brazil midfielder announced.

Let alone winning the Champions League, Newcastle have not played in the competition since 2003; their last appearance in any European tournament came back in 2013.

But the Magpies now have a squad determined to end the club's absence from continental action after 10 years.

"I believe we can challenge for European football this season," Joelinton told FourFourTwo. "It might be hard to qualify for the Champions League just yet, but why not? We want to at least compete for a Europa League spot."

Sven Botman, a new signing from Lille, added to Mail Online: "Europe is definitely a goal this season. I believe we can achieve that."

If Newcastle can maintain their form to date under Howe, Europa League qualification should be comfortably within their reach.

But the coach, perhaps understandably, is a little more guarded than his ambitious stars, offering only: "As long as expectations are controlled, then we'll be fine.

"This season is about progression, improvement. We want to evolve into the team we want to be in the future."

Better even before buying

Newcastle's evolution to this point has primarily centred around their defence – understandably, given they shipped 80 goals in 2021, a Premier League record for a calendar year.

It was this sort of worrying statistic that prompted doubts about Howe's suitability as the man to turn the Magpies around, with his stint as Bournemouth boss seeing at least 60 conceded in each Premier League season.

Yet in 2022, just four sides have let in fewer than Newcastle (20); only three have kept more clean sheets (seven).

Three of the five players signed in January were defenders, while Botman and goalkeeper Nick Pope have since followed, and the pre-season focus on maintaining possession should ease the pressure on that back line considerably.

It is now at the other end of the pitch where there are slight concerns.

Howe has openly discussed the need for offensive recruits, with the week before Saturday's opener at Nottingham Forest bringing reports of two failed bids for Leicester City playmaker James Maddison.

There clearly remains an over-reliance on Allan Saint-Maximin, who created 50 chances last season – two more than Maddison but also an alarming 21 more than his next team-mate (Joelinton).

Getting on the end of those passes, Newcastle also need Callum Wilson to stay healthy. He has scored 20 goals from just 84 shots over the past two seasons; of the Premier League players to tally 20 or more in that time, only Son Heung-min could better Wilson's conversion rate of 23.8 per cent.

That Wilson's fitness record was so poor last season actually suggests Newcastle could get better without significant reinforcement, though.

Not until the final two matches of the season, in wins over Arsenal and Burnley, did Guimaraes, Saint-Maximin and Wilson all start together.

'Big six' in Howe's sights

With all of the 'big six' pursuing a top-four finish, there are not enough Champions League places to go around even before considering the league's third-best team this year.

Newcastle will not catch City or Liverpool this season – even if Stats Perform's League Prediction model, calculated using betting market odds and Stats Perform's team rankings, counts the Magpies among seven potential title winners (albeit just a 0.03 per cent shot) – but the teams below the top two might all be within Howe's sights after warning shots were fired last term.

Chelsea ended a nine-game unbeaten run for Newcastle in controversial circumstances in March, snatching a 1-0 victory, while Tottenham capitalised on a rare off-day to win 5-1 the following month, but only after trailing to a Fabian Schar free-kick.

Arsenal were not so lucky, seeing their top-four hopes dashed on a brutal evening at St James' Park when Guimaraes, Saint-Maximin and Wilson teamed up from the start for the first time.

Manchester United are yet to play Newcastle in 2022 but were fortunate to escape with a draw from Tyneside in the final game of the previous calendar year.

Spurs and Arsenal are at least widely considered to have improved since the end of last season, spending well, but the same may not be true of Chelsea and United.

In the 2022 standings, Chelsea are sixth, and their transfer window has not panned out quite as they hoped. United have been frustrated, too, and they are a distant ninth since the turn of the year – nine points shy of Newcastle having played a game more.

If the team from Tyneside continue to go from strength to strength, two of English football's giants may have to improve merely to make the Europa League, let alone the Champions League.

Joelinton has urged Newcastle United coach Eddie Howe to get on the phone to Neymar and sign the Paris Saint-Germain superstar.

With Kylian Mbappe now the main man at PSG, having renewed his contract in France, Neymar has been linked with a move away from the club.

And Newcastle, with the world's richest football club owners in Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, are in theory one of very few potential suitors who could afford the sport's most expensive player.

The Magpies already have two Brazilians, too, in Joelinton and Bruno Guimaraes.

After Thiago Silva told Globo that Neymar "has to go to Chelsea", Joelinton, speaking to Brazilian podcast Cast FC, said: "We can get him a spot. Sure, in any team in the world.

"If he comes, it will be... I can't explain it. The man is an idol. He's huge in world football.

"So, the invitation is done: Ney, if you are listening to this, you can come. I'll run to you all the time. [The ball] will come easy."

Newcastle already have a tricky winger in Allan Saint-Maximin, but Joelinton did not hesitate in offering away his team-mate's number 10 shirt.

"His quality, the visibility... if we have the chance, I hope," the forward-turned-midfielder said. "Coach, call him. The number 10 shirt is there waiting for him.

"I'll send a message to Bruno. Bruno has his contact; he can send a message inviting Ney to play there."

Matt Targett has made the switch to Newcastle United on a permanent basis after the Magpies signed the defender from Aston Villa on a four-year deal.

The 26-year-old spent the latter half of last season on loan at St James' Park under Eddie Howe, and played a major role in their remarkable revival from being in great danger of suffering relegation.

Full-back Targett has now returned to Tyneside as Newcastle's first signing of the transfer window.

"I'm absolutely delighted to sign a four-year contract with this club," Targett told the club's official website.

"For me, it was an easy decision to make the loan permanent after the welcome I had from my fellow players, the staff, the supporters and the owners so I'm really happy to be here."

Newcastle boss Howe said: "Matt had a fantastic impact after joining on loan in January and made a big contribution to some excellent team performances.

"He is a great lad and a top professional who undoubtedly makes us stronger, so I'm delighted he sees his future here."

Targett made 16 appearances for the club last season and is expected to be the first of several new faces for the ambitious Magpies.

Kevin De Bruyne and Son Heung-min have joined Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold in being nominated for the Premier League's Player of the Season award.

De Bruyne, who won the award in 2019-20 despite Manchester City missing out on the title to Liverpool that season, is enjoying his best goalscoring campaign for the club.

He netted four goals in a 5-1 thrashing of Wolves on Wednesday, taking him to 19 in all competitions.

Salah is the only other past winner to be up for the award, having scored 22 goals and provided 13 assists (both league-high tallies) in another outstanding campaign as Liverpool battle City for the title.

Fellow Reds star Alexander-Arnold is also on the shortlist after racking up 12 assists in 31 appearances, as is Tottenham forward Son, who scored his 21st league goal of the campaign in Spurs' 3-0 win over Arsenal on Thursday.

Despite hitting 18 and 15 league goals respectively this season, Manchester United and Spurs strikers Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane are among the highest-profile players to miss out being nominated.

The other players on the eight-man shortlist are City defender Joao Cancelo, Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka, Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse, and West Ham's Jarrod Bowen.

Bowen is one of just three Premier League players to record double figures for goals and assists this season (both 10, along with Salah and Chelsea's Mason Mount).

Meanwhile, both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are in contention to be named Manager of the Season at the end of another enthralling title race between their teams.

Guardiola has already won the award on three occasions (in 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2020-21), the same amount as Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger. Only Alex Ferguson, with 11, has won it more often.

Klopp won the award when he led Liverpool to their first Premier League title in 2019-20, while the other three nominees all manage sides currently in the bottom half of the table.

Brentford's Thomas Frank is among them after leading the Bees to safety in their first top-flight season since 1946-47, as is Patrick Viera after an impressive first campaign with Crystal Palace.

Newcastle United's Eddie Howe is the final boss on the five-man shortlist, after the Magpies became the first side to go winless through their first 14 games in a Premier League campaign and avoid relegation (three had done so and gone down - Swindon Town in 1993-94, QPR in 2012-13, and Sheffield United in 2020-21).

Public votes will contribute towards deciding the winner of each award, with Premier League club captains also getting a vote on the players' award and a "panel of football experts" helping to choose the winning manager.

Manchester City edged closer to the Premier League title, while there was significant change at the bottom of the table on Sunday.

City were eliminated from the Champions League semi-finals in dramatic fashion by Real Madrid in midweek, but saw their domestic hopes boosted when Liverpool dropped points against Tottenham on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola's side subsequently breezed past Newcastle United to move three points clear of the Reds with three games remaining, while West Ham hit relegated Norwich City for four.

Elsewhere, Arsenal continued their charge for Champions League qualification with a narrow victory over 10-man Leeds United, who ended the day in the relegation zone after Everton triumphed at Leicester City.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of the Opta data from the day's top-flight fixtures.

Manchester City 5-0 Newcastle United: Sterling provides as title charge continues 

Raheem Sterling was at the double as City strengthened their grasp on top spot with a 5-0 rout of Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium.

Sterling and Aymeric Laporte struck in the first half, with Joao Cancelo teeing up the England international's opener as the full-back became the fourth of Guardiola's players to reach 10 assists in all competitions this season (also Kevin de Bruyne with 13, Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus - both 11).

City are the only team in Europe's big five leagues to have four or more different players reach 10 assists in all competitions this campaign, and Guardiola's men furthered their advantage after the interval.

Rodri then scored following a corner, as Laporte did in the first half, as City managed their 19th and 20th goals from set-piece situations this term in the league, excluding penalties. They have conceded just once from set-pieces themselves, with their plus-19 differential the best figure recorded in a single season in the Premier League since such records are available (2006-07 onwards).

Foden added a fourth before Sterling capped a fine victory with his 51st Premier League goal at the Etihad, becoming only the second player to pass 50 strikes for City at home in the competition after Sergio Aguero (106).

City have beaten Newcastle 28 times in the Premier League (D8 L8), more than they have any other side in the competition. In their league history, they have only beaten Everton (72 times) more often than the Magpies (68 times).

Meanwhile, Eddie Howe has lost all 12 of his Premier League meetings with City – 10 of those against Guardiola – the worst 100 per cent losing record a manager has against a single opponent or against another boss in the competition.

Arsenal 2-1 Leeds United: Ill-tempered Whites fall into relegation zone

An Eddie Nketiah double kept Arsenal on course for Champions League qualification as they triumphed 2-1 against 10-man Leeds, who dropped into the bottom three for the first time since October 30.

Nketiah fired the Gunners into a 2-0 lead as he became just the second Arsenal player to score twice in the opening 10 minutes of a Premier League game after Kanu (versus Sunderland in October 2002).

With Alexandre Lacazette out of favour, Nketiah has stepped up as Mikel Arteta's talisman, scoring four goals in his last four league games – just one fewer than he had managed in his first 52 top-flight appearances.

Luke Ayling was then dismissed for a mindless two-footed lunge on Gabriel Martinelli after 27 minutes, Leeds' earliest red card in the competition since April 1998 (when Lucas Radebe saw red after 17 minutes against Everton).

Tempers continued to flare before the interval as Leeds picked up their 95th and 96th yellow cards of the season, setting a new record for the most bookings for a club within a single Premier League campaign.

Diego Llorente offered Jesse Marsch's visitors brief hope as he poked home with Leeds' first shot on target, which marked the first home league goal Arsenal have conceded from a corner since February 2021 (also against Leeds).

However, Arsenal held on for victory to move four points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham, who they face on Thursday knowing victory will secure Champions League football next campaign.

Leicester City 1-2 Everton: Toffees move out of bottom three

Mason Holgate's second-half header proved the difference as Everton climbed out of the relegation zone with a battling 2-1 victory at Leicester.

Before this game, Leicester had won eight of their last nine top-flight matches against sides starting the day inside the relegation zone (D1), but the Foxes were caught cold by Vitalii Mykolenko's early volley.

That made Mykolenko the first Ukrainian to score a Premier League goal for Everton, the 39th different nationality to find the net in the competition for the Toffees, the sixth most of all clubs.

Patson Daka restored parity five minutes later, with all five of the striker's Premier League goals coming at the King Power Stadium – only Jamie Vardy (6) has netted more often at home for the club in the top-flight in 2021-22.

Holgate delivered the decisive finish in the 30th minute with his second league goal in his last five matches, one more than he had managed across his previous 109 top-flight appearances beforehand (one).

Brendan Rodgers will be left frustrated by the nature of Holgate's goal, given it was the 15th Premier League strike Leicester have conceded from a corner this campaign – the most by a side in a single campaign since Brighton and Hove Albion in 2017-18 (16).

Victory marked the first away league win in 15 games for Everton, ending a seven-game losing streak on the road as Frank Lampard's side moved a point clear of Leeds and Burnley having played one game fewer.

Norwich City 0-4 West Ham: Bowen and Benrahma on song to down Canaries

Said Benrahma scored twice as West Ham responded to Thursday's Europa League semi-final heartbreak by cruising past relegated Norwich 4-0 at Carrow Road.

Benrahma struck after 12 minutes before Michail Antonio ended his joint-longest goal drought in the top-flight with his fifth Premier League strike against the Canaries, only against Tottenham (six) has he scored more in the competition. 

Algeria international Benrahma doubled his tally before the interval, taking him to 21 direct goal contributions in the competition (nine goals, 12 assists). Since his debut in 2020, Jarrod Bowen (30) and Antonio (28) are the only other Hammers to register 20+ top-flight goal involvements.

Bowen assisted both of Benrahma's strikes as the former Hull City man became just the second player for West Ham to register at least 10 goals and 10 assists in a Premier League season, and the first since Paolo Di Canio in 1999-00 (16 goals, 13 assists).

Indeed, only Harry Kane (32) has been involved in more goals among English Premier League players in all competitions than Bowen this season (27 – 16 goals, 11 assists).

Manuel Lanzini's second-half penalty rounded off the victory as West Ham won a Premier League away game by at least a four-goal margin for just the third time, while it was the first time the Hammers have put at least four goals past a side in consecutive league visits since doing so against Tottenham in November 1966.

Meanwhile, Norwich have failed to score in 20 different league games this season, becoming the first side to do so in at least 20 matches in three different Premier League campaigns (also in 1994-95 and 2019-20).

Eddie Howe has revealed he will call a team meeting at Newcastle United to clarify comments made by Allan Saint-Maximin, who appeared to criticise his team-mates.

Saint-Maximin's interview with So Foot was published this week, in which the winger compared himself to Sadio Mane and said he would provide assists more regularly "the day when I have a player capable of finishing the actions".

The 25-year-old has only four assists this season despite creating 45 chances from open play – the eighth-most in the league and most outside the top six.

Callum Wilson, who has been out injured since December, remains Newcastle's top scorer with just six goals. Only Wolves (Raul Jimenez, also six) have had their leading marksman tally so few.

But Saint-Maximin did not intend to criticise his team-mates, Howe says, with both the player and coach seeking to ensure there was no "damage" to the team before a big game away at Manchester City.

"I saw the quotes, spoke with Allan," Howe said on Friday. "I think I need to make this clear that Allan's quotes didn't come across in the way he meant them to.

"He was concerned yesterday. We spoke, and in no way did he mean to damage the team and the unity that we've built. Of course, he said things in an interview, but, as I said, it wasn't in the context that he meant, although it happened.

"We'll be speaking with the squad and making sure there's no fallout from that, because unity has been our strength. It's vitally important that we keep that."

Regardless, Saint-Maximin and Newcastle will be boosted by the return of Wilson, who "looks in a good place and there's a good chance he'll be involved on Sunday".

England right-back Kieran Trippier is "slightly behind Callum" in his recovery but could still feature, while Howe is holding out hope for Fabian Schar to play despite missing training this week following an injury against Liverpool on Saturday.

Newcastle lost 1-0 to Liverpool and now face their title rivals City at the Etihad Stadium, where they have never won in the Premier League, losing their past 12 such matches.

Howe has been beaten in all 11 of his league games against City, including nine against Pep Guardiola – two competition records for one coach losing 100 per cent of their matches against any specific opponent or manager.

But City are coming off a painful Champions League defeat to Real Madrid, potentially making them vulnerable on Sunday, although Howe wants his team to improve, too.

"[The Champions League defeat] can work both ways," Howe said. "It can emotionally affect them in the positive or the negative.

"We will 100 per cent prepare for the best Manchester City, so we have to be the best Newcastle we can be. Looking back to last week, that was the disappointment for last week. We just missed the intensity in our work."

Few would be surprised if Manchester City and Liverpool, the Premier League's two dominant teams, each won their five remaining matches this season.

Liverpool have 12 victories in 13 games, with their sole aberration a 2-2 draw against City.

Yet that run will not be enough to take the title should City themselves continue to win, maintaining a tiny one-point gap that represents a chasm in this rivalry.

Perhaps the distraction of huge Champions League tasks could instead encourage one side or the other to take their eyes off the prize – or maybe a Premier League rival can provide an upset.

Liverpool must still tackle two of the other three opponents to have taken points off City this term (Tottenham and Southampton) but first face a team transformed since they were swatted aside by both the Reds and the champions back in December.

As back then, Newcastle United take on Liverpool and City in consecutive matches. The top two also each have Wolves and Aston Villa to play, yet it is Eddie Howe's men who look primed to be kingmakers.

After all, in this calendar year, Newcastle represent the best of the rest. Only Liverpool (2.7) and City (2.3) have earned more points per game than Newcastle (2.1), who are actually ahead of City (30) in terms of a 2022 total (32).

So, heading into a daunting double-header comfortably in midtable after 150 days in the relegation zone this season, could Newcastle shake things up?

Fortress St James'

The last time Newcastle beat Liverpool, Georginio Wijnaldum scored one goal and created the other. He has since been relegated with Newcastle, joined Liverpool, won the Champions League and the Premier League and moved on again.

The Reds are 10 without defeat against Newcastle, including a four-match unbeaten run on Tyneside – albeit two of those clashes were behind closed doors. Newcastle have failed to win in five successive home league games against Liverpool only once previously, back in the 1960s.

Liverpool did come out on top the last time they played in front of fans at St James' Park in 2019 but only courtesy of a controversial late winner. The hosts were clear of relegation trouble with little to play for after a strong second half to the season, while the visitors briefly set aside a Champions League semi-final in their pursuit of City.

That sounds familiar, and the home crowd are likely to be up for it again, with Jurgen Klopp remarking last time: "Is there any history between Newcastle and Liverpool that I don't know about? The atmosphere was like something happened in the past."

Howe's side have their own streak to extend this weekend, meanwhile, having won six Premier League games in a row at home for the first time in 18 years.

In fact, only three times previously in the competition have Newcastle enjoyed a longer such stretch at home, even if their 1995-96 record run of 14 wins remains a long way out of reach.

City at least have the benefit of playing Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium, although the Magpies' four away wins this season have all come since the turn of the year.

For the first time since 1996-97, Newcastle have won three games in a row on three separate occasions, including an ongoing run of four straight victories in which they have conceded only once...

Built from the back

Newcastle's development into a solid defensive outfit was far from expected. They ended 2021 having conceded a record 80 Premier League goals for the calendar year, while Howe's Bournemouth team shipped at least 61 in each of their five seasons in the competition.

A 3-3 draw at home to Brentford in his first match in charge hinted at the continuation of a campaign of chaos, and Newcastle were still conceding 2.3 goals per game – on course for more than 86 for the season – when City won 4-0 at St James' Park in December.

However, Howe – widely considered an attacking coach – spent time at Atletico Madrid in his spell out of the game, and Newcastle have since represented something akin to Diego Simeone's side.

They have conceded more than once in only a single game since the City defeat, an uncharacteristic 5-1 collapse at Tottenham that included four home goals in just over 20 minutes either side of half-time.

Again, only Liverpool's Alisson (10) and City's Ederson (seven) can top Martin Dubravka's six league clean sheets for Newcastle in 2022, when he has let in 13 goals in 15 games – or a hugely impressive eight in 14 outside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Dubravka has played a key role in keeping Newcastle up in previous seasons, but this time the players in front of him are doing the bulk of the work.

Newcastle have allowed their 2022 opponents chances worth 1.0 expected goals per game, third behind City (0.6) and Liverpool (0.9). Their defence is sixth in terms of shots faced over this period (10.8 per game) and fourth for shots on target faced (3.1 per game).

The Magpies will back themselves to frustrate either Liverpool or City, yet the top two have won 10 of the 17 games this season in which they have scored no more than a single goal, so Howe's men will have to threaten at the other end, too.

Brilliant Bruno Guimaraes

Outsiders have attributed much of Newcastle's upturn to their January investment in new players, yet that ignores the improvement of previously failing individuals like Joelinton and Emil Krafth – key men in a side missing England internationals Callum Wilson since December and Kieran Trippier since February.

Howe is therefore yet to come close to naming his strongest Newcastle team, but that XI will undoubtedly have his most expensive signing, Bruno Guimaraes, at the heart of it.

With Trippier likely still out, Guimaraes is perhaps the one Newcastle player who would not look out of place in either the Liverpool or City line-ups.

The Brazil midfielder has been as outstanding as expected both in and out of possession, showing the quality that helped Lyon to knock City out of the 2019-20 Champions League.

Guimaraes has completed 85.8 per cent of his passes in the Premier League, the highest rate of any Newcastle player to play 500 or more minutes since their promotion in 2017, while also averaging a tackle every 24 minutes – third behind Arthur Masuaku and Liverpool's Naby Keita this season.

What was not anticipated was the goal threat Guimaraes has also brought. After scoring three times in 56 Ligue 1 games with Lyon, the 24-year-old has four in 13 – including just seven starts – at Newcastle.

Since first breaking into the Newcastle XI, only Cristiano Ronaldo (eight), Son Heung-min (six) and Gabriel Jesus (five) have found the net on as many occasions in the Premier League.

"Goals aren't the strongest part of my game," Guimaraes insisted when he arrived in England, but he poses as big a danger to Liverpool and City as anyone, looking to extend his streak of goal involvements in three straight matches.

Guimaraes spoke in that same interview of winning the Champions League during his time at Newcastle, while his agent this week suggested the club would be targeting qualification as soon as next season.

These next two fixtures present Guimaraes and Newcastle with the opportunity to test themselves against the best Europe can offer – and potentially decide the Premier League title race in the process.

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe has sympathised with Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp, but acknowledged the Reds will have to "bite the bullet" amid scheduling concerns.

Klopp expressed his annoyance with the Premier League calendar and broadcaster BT Sport after it was confirmed Liverpool will visit Newcastle in the early kick-off on Saturday, April 30.

That leaves less than 72 hours to recover from the first leg of their Champions League semi-final with Villarreal before the return meeting three days after the visit to St James' Park.

With the Merseyside club still in contention for the Premier League, one point behind leaders Manchester City – who they also face in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday – Klopp called for "common sense" to be used.

While Howe appreciated the German's frustrations, the Magpies manager suggested the scheduling problems were a result of the success of Liverpool, who have requested the fixture to be moved.

"It's a very difficult situation. They've been very successful this year, they've ended up playing a lot of games, so I understand it from their viewpoint," Howe told reporters on Friday.

"I’d probably have the same opinion if I was them.

"For us, we've been in their position many times over the years where you look at it and you think, 'How has it ended up this game being moved to this time or this day?'.

"But we have very little say in the fixtures in terms of when they come and how they sit, and you just have to react and deal with it.

"I have every sympathy with Liverpool, but they're winning lots of games and they're in lots of competitions, naturally it's going to be that way."

Asked if a fixture change would be unfair on Newcastle, Howe added: "We get told when to play and we'll turn up and do our best. It's not up to us to decide when games are played.

"We ended up with four away games in very quick succession recently, which was far from ideal for us, but we had to bite the bullet and get on with it.

"As I said, we don't decide the fixtures, we'll play the game. But I do have every sympathy."

Kai Havertz denied deliberately elbowing Newcastle United defender Dan Burn during Chelsea's 1-0 win on Sunday, insisting "this guy is eight feet tall" and he was simply jumping for the ball.

The Germany star struck a superb 89th-minute winner at Stamford Bridge as the Blues finished a difficult week with a victory that moved them to within 10 points of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

With the game drifting towards a goalless draw, Havertz controlled a fine Jorginho pass before rifling beyond Martin Dubravka, giving the home fans some cheer in the wake of Roman Abramovich being disqualified as owner following the United Kingdom government's sanctions against him.

Abramovich had assets frozen and a travel ban imposed due to his ties with Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, who ordered an invasion of Ukraine last month.

Earlier in the game, Havertz escaped a red card following a VAR check after he caught Burn with a raised arm while challenging for a header, a decision that caused consternation among the Newcastle players.

However, the former Bayer Leverkusen man said he was simply trying to win the ball against the imposing centre-back, telling Sky Sports: "Sometimes, it looks like this. On the pitch, it's different.

"People know I'm not a player who does things like this. This guy is seven, eight feet tall, and I have to jump. As anyone would know, you have to use your arms to jump. When I jump, and he is two heads higher than me, sometimes there's stuff.

"I can say sorry to him because he has an injury on the head and I feel bad. But you can't tell me I did this on purpose."

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe said "it could have been a red" but was far more frustrated with the decision not to award his side a penalty just before the hour mark.

Trevoh Chalobah had hold of Jacob Murphy's shirt and then seemed to trip the Newcastle midfielder after he entered the box, but neither referee David Coote nor VAR decided a foul had been committed.

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe: "I can't look past the penalty," Howe said. "I'm hugely disappointed with that decision and how they've reached that decision.

"Jacob's had his shirt ripped off his back. Clear penalty. If the referee doesn't give it on the pitch I can understand that but the VAR has to at least make the referee go and review his own decision because if he does he'll realise he got it wrong."

Liverpool defender Joel Matip has been named Premier League Player of the Month for his performances in February.

The centre-back is the first Cameroonian to win the prize, which recognised his influence in a positive month for title-hopefuls Liverpool.

Matip was an ever-present for the Reds in the league, contributing to three clean sheets in four matches, conceding just once in the process.

No defenders recorded more clean sheets in February, while Matip was the only centre-back to score and get an assist over the month.

He netted a fine strike in the 6-0 hammering of Leeds United, as he impressively brought the ball out from defence, played a one-two with Mohamed Salah and then lifted the ball past Illan Meslier.

Matip also teed up Diogo Jota in the 2-0 win over Leicester City, feeding the Portuguese forward with a cheeky nutmeg on the edge of the box.

The 30-year-old beat Che Adams, Ryan Fraser, Harry Kane, Ben Mee and Wilfried Zaha to the gong, making him the first centre-back – and only second defender after team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold – to win the prize this term.

Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe also had cause for celebration after he took home the Manager of the Month award.

Having invested heavily in January, the Magpies were unbeaten in February as they won three times and drew away to West Ham – they have not lost in the Premier League in 2022.

As such, Newcastle climbed out of the relegation zone for the first time since September and have a 10-point cushion between them and 18th-placed Burnley.

Howe came out ahead of Mikel Arteta, Ralph Hasenhuttl and Jurgen Klopp in the vote and it was the fourth time he has won the award, previously doing so three times while in charge of Bournemouth.

Newcastle United's owners are glad they were snubbed by Unai Emery as they now hope Eddie Howe can be "the next Alex Ferguson" at St James' Park.

Having sacked the unpopular Steve Bruce in October – one match after the club's takeover by a consortium backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund – Newcastle identified Emery and Howe as leading candidates for their head coaching role.

Emery was approached first, only to back out, leaving Howe to take charge of a struggling team threatened with relegation.

Gradually, Howe has turned the tide on Tyneside, with Newcastle entering Saturday's match at Brentford on an unbeaten run that spans six league matches and more than two months. They are the only top-flight team without a single defeat since Christmas Day.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Athletic, Newcastle director Mehrdad Ghodoussi said chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan wanted Howe "from day one".

And Al-Rumayyan's fellow board members are now convinced Howe was the right choice.

In the same interview with The Athletic, Amanda Staveley, Ghodoussi's wife and business partner, said: "It would have been wrong [to appoint Emery].

"We made the right decision with Eddie. He's come in, no airs or graces, no ego, and we're there to support him. I've really grown to care a great deal about him and his coaches.

"We talk to Eddie multiple times a day. I'm fascinated by what he does. He's so detailed, so hard working. You don't know when you're interviewing someone what they're going to be like but he's got huge integrity."

Howe is just 14 games into his Newcastle tenure, but Ghodoussi added: "I would love Eddie to be the next Alex Ferguson."

The Newcastle directors also discussed the January transfer window, claiming Sven Botman and Jesse Lingard each wanted to join the club. Botman could yet sign at the end of the season.

Kieran Trippier was one new arrival and had an instant impact, scoring two goals and being handed the captain's armband within four league appearances before sustaining a foot fracture.

Trippier has certainly impressed the Newcastle board, as Staveley said: "He's so professional, so fit. I've been so impressed.

"To be honest, Kieran isn't someone we'll ever sell. I've said to him, 'You're with us and that's it. You can be our Alan Shearer. You'll be a standard-bearer for Newcastle for many years to come'.

"If he can play, he will stay, and I believe you might find he'll still be playing in five years' time because he's capable of it. He's got something extraordinary."

Eddie Howe is hopeful Kieran Trippier will play for Newcastle United again this season, but stated the right-back's injury is "significant".

Trippier was the first arrival under Howe and the new ownership at Newcastle last month, and has played a key role in helping the Magpies turn their form around.

Newcastle are out of the bottom three in the Premier League after three successive victories, beating Leeds United, Everton and Aston Villa respectively.

England international Trippier has scored in both of the last two matches, but he sustained a fracture in his left foot during the win over Villa.

Newcastle confirmed on Monday that the 31-year-old had fractured his fifth metatarsal bone, though no timescale was placed on his return.

Initial reports suggested that Trippier would need between eight and 10 weeks to fully recover.

On Friday, while previewing Newcastle's clash with West Ham, Howe confirmed Trippier's surgery had been a success.

"He had his operation yesterday and that went well, so that was good news," Howe told a news conference.

"We aim to have him back before the end of the season, but it's a significant injury which is a big blow for us."

Trippier's back-up, Javier Manquillo, suffered an ankle injury in the Villa match, and Howe confirmed the Spaniard would also be missing against West Ham on Saturday.

"Manquillo went off in the same game after landing awkwardly on his ankle following a header," Howe said. "We don't think that's serious, but he will miss the game. Apart from that, we're as we were."

A fellow new arrival in January was midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, though the Brazil international is yet to make his full debut for Newcastle, having instead had to settle for two substitute appearances.

"It's a really strong area, probably our strongest in terms of personnel," Howe said of Newcastle's midfield. "Every player would have an argument to say I deserve to start so long may that continue.

"Bruno will start a lot of games for us and will be a huge player. I don't think this period where he's watching and learning from the Premier League is a bad thing for him, although it will frustrate him because he wants to show his talent."

Due to gale-force winds hitting the United Kingdom from Storm Eunice, Newcastle will not be flying down to London, but instead they faced a seven-hour coach journey to the capital ahead of Saturday's early kick-off.

However, recent history is on their side. Newcastle have won their last two Premier League away games against West Ham, and have tasted victory on the road against the Hammers 10 times. They have not won more often on the road against any other side in the competition.

Newcastle United versus Everton may have been ringed on the calendar back in August, but not for the same reasons it is now the source of such intrigue.

Tuesday's fixture could have seen Rafael Benitez return to St James' Park for the first time since quitting as Newcastle manager back in 2019.

However, Benitez is out at Everton – as, at Newcastle, is Steve Bruce, his successor on Tyneside.

Instead, Frank Lampard heads north for his Premier League bow as Everton boss, set to take on Eddie Howe's Magpies in a match neither can afford to lose.

Newcastle remain in the bottom three yet can close to within a point of their opponents with a win that would surely drag Lampard's men into the relegation battle.

Ahead of a mammoth encounter, Stats Perform's Ben Spratt and Patric Ridge examine the issues that have brought the two teams to this point and consider how they can each hope to kick clear of the danger – starting at Gallowgate.

Why Newcastle are in trouble – BS

This has felt like a relegation campaign right from the outset, with Newcastle's positive performances going unrewarded and their poorer displays being ruthlessly punished.

Newcastle led within five minutes at home to West Ham on the opening day, as Bruce attempted to deliver a more exciting, attacking brand of football. He succeeded only in leaving a hapless defence hopelessly exposed.

They lost 4-2 to the Hammers, the first three of 21 points dropped from winning positions, the first four of 43 goals conceded – 10 of which have been a result of errors leading to goals (four), penalty goals (five) or own goals (one).

Those mistakes have continued under Howe, who has also quickly grown tired of a consistent trend of contentious refereeing decisions going against his side at both ends of the pitch.

The assumption from those not watching this luckless outfit on a weekly basis has been that January spending would lift Newcastle to safety. That theory is about to be put to the test, however, with the neutral perhaps anticipating more ambitious targets than Chris Wood and Dan Burn.

Why Everton are in trouble – PR

Benitez was never the right choice at Goodison Park – but not only due to his Liverpool connections. While his disciplined, organised Newcastle side appeared to play to a clear plan, his Everton team were, largely, shocking.

After a 1-1 draw with Manchester United in October, Everton had 14 points from their seven Premier League games – their best start since 2004-05 (16 points), when they finished fourth – but the underlying level of performances always suggested that if injuries hit, which they did, the Toffees may struggle. And struggle they have.

Benitez – who cannot be blamed for all of Everton's issues, it has to be stressed – wanted to play on the counter-attack, yet his team could not defend. Across 19 league games in charge, they shipped 34 goals – including 11 from set-pieces, a problem that persists.

But Everton's issues have not been restricted to one area of the pitch.

From a 1-0 defeat to West Ham on October 17 to Benitez's final match in charge against Norwich City on January 15, Everton ranked 18th for goals (11), 16th for shots on target (46/139) and 12th for touches in the opposition box (259), as well as having the third-worst defence (27 goals conceded), with 20.6 expected goals against the fourth-worst in the division. Their position is in no way false.

Why Newcastle can survive – BS

Newcastle's £90million January outlay – the largest in world football – may not have brought a host of superstars to Tyneside, immediately guaranteeing survival, but their five signings could yet transform the way Howe's side play.

Kieran Trippier, Burn, Matt Targett and Bruno Guimaraes have all been recruited from teams who are used to having the ball – which cannot be said for Newcastle, despite their coach's footballing philosophy. No team in the Premier League have had a lower average share of possession (37.8 per cent), with just Burnley, who have two games in hand, completing fewer passes (4,962).

If Newcastle are now able to move the ball out from the back with greater confidence, their costly mistakes in possession should start to subside.

This has, after all, been a season of such fine margins. The Magpies have not lost to any of the other eight teams in the bottom nine; crucially, however, they have only beaten two of them. A new style of play, operating further away from their own goal (only Wolves have a deeper average starting position than Newcastle), should mean more opportunities created in attack and fewer conceded in defence.

Newcastle have been working towards this Everton game for more than two weeks, although only Trippier of the new faces went on the "team bonding" trip to Saudi Arabia. How quickly and effectively the rest of the signings have settled should be evident in Newcastle's approach – and, perhaps, the result.

Why Everton can survive – PR

Had they carried on with Benitez for much longer, or perhaps even left Duncan Ferguson in caretaker charge, Everton's survival chances may have been slim.

Yet that should change under Lampard – and seemingly already has. A clip of the new Toffees manager instructing his players to "enjoy the ball" during a training session last week came as a breath of fresh air to supporters who, under a succession of managers, have become accustomed to their team surrendering possession far too easily.

Evidence of Lampard's impact was there to see in the 4-1 FA Cup win over Brentford on Saturday. Even though Dele Alli and Donny van de Beek were cup-tied and Dominic Calvert-Lewin was out injured, Everton scored four goals in a game for the first time since Carlo Ancelotti oversaw a 5-4 win over Tottenham last February.

Everton had 55.8 per cent of the possession, a share they were only twice able to better under Benitez (both in defeats), with Lampard placing more of an emphasis on his defenders playing into midfield. A duel success rate of 63.1 per cent (53/84) was their best in any game across all competitions this season, as the Toffees noticeably looked to engage higher up the pitch.

Given Newcastle preferred to invest in their defence, Everton – between Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Demarai Gray – should have the strongest attack of those in relegation trouble. With Alli and Van de Beek also to come into the midfield and Abdoulaye Doucoure to return from injury, Lampard's more attacking, intense approach should suit the Toffees moving forward.

Jonathan Woodgate hopes Newcastle United stay patient with Eddie Howe in their long-term bid to become contenders in the Premier League. 

Newcastle have refocused their sights on the top of the table after a lucrative takeover by a consortium backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, the richest owner in world football. 

For now, however, the Magpies are battling relegation under Howe – the first coach appointed by the new owners in November. 

Newcastle were winless when Howe took over and have only added two victories since, remaining in the bottom three with relegation a major concern. 

But after a January transfer window in which Newcastle were the top spenders across Europe, shelling out in the region of £90million for five players, Woodgate believes they will stay up. 

The former Newcastle defender told Stats Perform: "Some of the performances they've produced have been really good – especially at home, they've been decent. 

"Okay, away from home, they've had a few difficult results, but they're a good team. 

"And you need to give Eddie Howe the time to really implement what he wants to do, because he's a fantastic manager." 

That was a sentiment Woodgate repeated when discussing the potential for Newcastle to challenge for the title, as they did during his time at the club between 2003 and 2004. 

"You're looking at five years, five to 10 years," Woodgate said. "It depends on which players you can buy, and hopefully they can stay with Eddie Howe, because I know he can build something there. 

"We had a fantastic team there. We were young, energetic, good players, English players, who really had that hunger. 

"We had great senior players, Gary Speed, Alan Shearer, Shay Given, Steve Harper, at the time, who were really good behind the scenes and good with the young players as well. 

"You need the right balance and the right blend to build a team. We had that in that team in the Bobby Robson era." 

"Balance" is the key again now, Woodgate says, and he believes Newcastle may have found it in January, signing defenders Kieran Trippier, Matt Targett and Dan Burn, midfielder Bruno Guimaraes and striker Chris Wood. 

Himself widely considered Newcastle's best centre-back of the Premier League era, Woodgate sees a player in Burn who has "improved fantastically well". Guimaraes, he suggests, "is a very good signing". 

"I think they needed someone else in the middle of that park to really be hard to play against, because at times Newcastle can be easy to play against," the ex-England man added. 

"Putting [Guimaraes] in the centre of the pitch, it'll be a lot more difficult now for teams to break them down." 

"They've brought in that balance," Woodgate concluded. "They did need two full-backs, they needed a centre-back and they needed a centre-midfielder and centre-forward to help Callum Wilson. 

"So, I think it's been a very good window and they haven't overspent. They haven't spent £200m like everyone thought they would, but they've kept it nice." 

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