Newcastle United head coach John Carver says his side have prepared for Saturday’s Premier League clash with Swansea City at St James’ Park as if it was the World Cup final.
Carver’s men have lost their last six matches and are still in danger of relegation, standing seven points above the drop zone with five games still to play, although Leicester City, Hull City and Sunderland do have a game in hand on them.
The visit of Swansea will again take place against a backdrop of Newcastle fan protests aimed at owner Mike Ashley’s running of the club, with a section of supporters vowing to boycott the game after doing the same in last weekend’s match with Tottenham.
AshleyOut.com, who have organised the boycott, want supporters at the game to ‘stand up to Ashley’ in the 34th minute – a reference to the £34million in unused funds revealed to be in Newcastle’s accounts.
Carver expects the latter show of defiance from the fans to have an impact on the pitch, although he has urged his players to remain focused for the rest of the encounter.
“We will have 89 minutes to have a go at it,” Carver said. “It [the unrest] is affecting people.
“It affected me and the players [last week]. I didn’t want to use it as an excuse and I don’t have a problem with protests.
“We have been preparing for it [the game] like a World Cup final.”
The hosts will be able to call on Siem de Jong for the first time since August in what has been a nightmare first Newcastle season for the Dutchman, while Jonas Gutierrez is back in the squad following a training ground rift with Carver.
Papiss Cisse and Moussa Sissoko are suspended and Rolando Aarons (hamstring), Steven Taylor (Achilles), Paul Dummett, Massadio Haidara and Cheick Tiote (all knee) are also unavailable.
Swansea have named an unchanged squad from their 2-1 defeat to Leicester last time out, with Bafetimbi Gomis (hamstring), Kyle Naughton and Tom Carroll (both ankle) as well as the suspended Neil Taylor the only players on the sidelines.
Manager Garry Monk expects his team to bounce back and not be distracted by the goings on at St James’ Park.
“My experience at this club is every time we have a setback we come back stronger,” Monk said. “That’s what I’ve been telling them this week. It’s a chance to answer questions of us.
“We’ve had some good results there, it’s a great place to play your football. The players are used to the big grounds and stadiums and hopefully we can use the crowd against the team if we perform well but we need to focus on ourselves.
“You have to concentrate on your football. It’s not my focus, whatever goes on off the pitch it’s their business, mine is to concentrate on Swansea.
“I don’t know enough behind the scenes what’s going on, I only see what you do on the TV but it’s speculation.”
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