Eddie Howe has no doubt Loris Karius is in confident mood ahead of an unexpected Newcastle United debut in the EFL Cup final.
An improbable series of events have led to Karius being in line to make his Newcastle bow against Manchester United at Wembley on Sunday.
First-choice goalkeeper Nick Pope was sent off against Liverpool last weekend, while Martin Dubravka is cup-tied having spent the first half of the season on loan at Man United. He will only get a winners’ medal if his Newcastle team-mates lose.
Karl Darlow, who started Newcastle’s cup campaign in goal, was also allowed to leave on loan, meaning Karius and Mark Gillespie – the fourth and fifth-choice options – will be thrust into the spotlight.
It is Newcastle’s first major cup final since the 1999 FA Cup final, a loss to Man United, but Karius has rather more recent and similarly painful memories of such an occasion.
He was at fault for two goals as Liverpool lost the 2018 Champions League final to Real Madrid, albeit having suffered a concussion. He never played for Liverpool again.
But Newcastle head coach Howe said of that match: “I’ve never really discussed that at any length with him [Karius].
“We’ve all got stuff that’s happened in our careers and our histories that you learn from, and I think he’s no different in that respect.
Eddie Howe on having a positive mindset:
“I believe we can win any game against any team, home or away, if we’re absolutely at our best and I think we’ve proved that this season. We believe the power is in our hands and it’s up to us to perform at our best levels.” pic.twitter.com/wzIM9Vmptk
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) February 21, 2023
“Since day one since he’s come here – he started where he hadn’t had a lot of work before joining us – he’s trained with our goalkeeper coaches in a really, really good way.
“His general performances in training have improved as he’s spent more time with us, and I think he’s in a good place and he’s ready to play.”
Asked how talks had gone with Karius since his sudden promotion, Howe added: “Those conversations are the type of conversations I have with him on a regular basis.
“How is he? How does he feel his training’s going? Are we giving him everything he needs to be the best that he can be?
“He’s a very likeable, laidback character. I’ve got no doubts on his confidence levels. He seems very relaxed and excited – as Mark is – about what lies ahead.”
Pope has kept the most clean sheets in both the Premier League (12) and EFL Cup (four) this season, but Howe himself is also still confident.
“I think we have to be very positive about our situation, about the game,” he said. “Yes, it’s a blow to lose Nick, but we still believe in the team and the group that we have.”
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