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02/09/2002

Owen's not the only danger

Owen's not the only danger

Nikos Dabizas will lock horns with Liverpool hotshot Michael Owen tonight determined to end his reign of terror over Newcastle's defence.

The Greek international and his colleagues have suffered at the hands of the England striker - who has scored 11 times in seven Premiership outings against the Magpies - for too long for their liking, and are desperate to break the stranglehold he has established in recent years.

But Dabizas knows that Gerard Houllier has more than one weapon in his armoury and that keeping Owen quiet may not be enough with the likes of Emile Heskey and new sensation El Hadji Diouf eager to do their share of terrorising defences.

"It's going to be difficult," he said. "There's a lot of pressure and we have to defend very well, keep the ball and not give away chances.

"Just remember, Michael Owen didn't score against us last time we played. Maybe we talk too much about him. Every time we play against Liverpool, everyone asks about Owen.

"It's not about Owen, it's about keeping all their players quiet. Of course he is a good player and it's not going to be easy keeping him quiet, but they have a lot of good players and we have to concentrate on them all.

"We can't concentrate too much on Owen. What is the point of keeping him quiet and someone else does the damage?

"But we won't fear Michael Owen, no way."

With Republic of Ireland international Andy O'Brien now fit again after struggling with shin splints, he and stlg4.5m summer signing Titus Bramble will fight it out to partner Dabizas at the heart of the United defence.

The Greek and Bramble have started to sow the seeds of a relationship on the pitch in O'Brien's absence, but the 29-year-old former Olympiakos player admits that, whatever the personnel, the philosophy will be the same.

"It's not about Titus and me, it's about us all defending as a team," he said. "When we lose the ball, it's up to everyone to retrieve it.

"We have to keep the ball better away from home, better than we did last week at Manchester City.

"In Gary Speed and Kieron Dyer, we have midfielders who like to go forward, and that means we are often exposed. The most important thing is to have a defensive mentality away from home."

United bounced back from last Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Maine Road to cement their Champions League place with a 4-0 home win over NK Zeljeznicar in midweek, but after enjoying the excitement of Thursday's afternoon's draw, their attention has turned to events at a venue which has seen them lose on each of their last eight Premiership visits.

"I've not got good memories of Anfield," Dabizas admitted. "Since I came, I don't think we've even drawn. The nearest was when we lost to a last-minute Jamie Redknapp goal.

"We have to defend better away from home, but that doesn't mean sitting back. Liverpool are strong, and do that and you have no chance.

"We have to create chances of our own. After City, we're looking for a positive result. We don't want to lose two consecutive league games. Good teams don't do that, and we're a good team.

"But everyone must be at their best."


Jack Pickering, 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.