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10/01/2002

Moment of truth for United

Moment of truth for United

Newcastle United must continue to dismiss the doubters and again prove they have the armoury to beat the best sides in the Premiership when they face Leeds United on Saturday, according to Nikos Dabizas.

The Greek defender has described the Leeds match as a pivotal game in Newcastle's season and another opportunity to prove they can not only compete with, but also beat the Premiership's so-called "big five."

Following mighty victories at Arsenal and Leeds United which took them to the top of the league over Christmas, Newcastle have since lost to fellow title challengers Chelsea and Manchester United, with defensive mistakes costing them dearly in both games.

And Dabizas now claims it is vital Newcastle win the latest of what he has described as the season's all-important "six pointer clashes" if they are to maintain their challenge as title contenders.

He said: "The match against Leeds is a big, big game for us and could prove to be pivotal in our season.

"The gaffer has told us all week that it is a six-pointer and we have had a lot of those recently. We had two excellent wins at Arsenal and Leeds United, which were both six- pointers, but then we lost the next two against Chelsea and Manchester United.

"It is these sorts of games that decide titles and, having lost out in two of them, it is important that we take three points off Leeds."

Dabizas was on the receiving end of a horror tackle by Leeds' Aussie striker Mark Viduka during the match at Elland Road last month, a challenge the defender feared would end his career. But Dabizas claimed another win would be all the revenge he needed.

"If we can do the double over them it will be further proof that we are a side to be reckoned with and it will mean we have done the double over Leeds for the second season in a row, which will be a big psychological blow to them.

"Undoubtedly we have had the hardest run of games out of all the top-six teams before and after Christmas, but still we are in a good position. If we put another run of wins together, who knows what can happen.

"We got a good win in the Cup last weekend, but we cannot afford to lose concentration if we are to keep ourselves among the front-runners in the league.

"Saturday is the sort of game that we do not need any inspiration for. It is the sort of game you play football at a club like Newcastle for."

Dabizas remains the centre-piece of Bobby Robson's favoured back four, but the 28-year-old knows that competition for places at centre-back has never been fiercer.

He explained: "Andy O'Brien has been brilliant for us this season, but in the last couple of games the manager has chosen to play Sylvain Distin and myself.

"Sylvain has come over from France, he wants to play football and he wants to stay at Newcastle United, so he is desperate to do well. But both are very good players with different strengths.

"Obviously I want to start every game as well, so there is a lot of competition at the back. None of us can let our standards slip or we will be out, but my feelings are that a good defence comes from having a settled back four with a settled goalkeeper behind that."


The Journal

 

232 Appearances in England (175 for Newcastle United, 18 for Leicester in the Premier League and 39 for Leicester in the Championship). Total League-Cup-Europe appearances 550. National Team appearances 70. Goals total 40.