By Damian Spellman, PA
Newcastle will face Fulham on Sunday with head coach Eddie Howe admitting the reverse fixture was where their thrilling season really started.
The Carabao Cup semi-finalists host the Londoners with both clubs in impressive form, the Magpies sitting third in the table and Marco Silva’s men just four points and three places worse off.
Newcastle’s elevated status is due largely to a run of eight wins and no defeats in their last 11 league games which began with a 4-1 victory at Craven Cottage on October 1 thanks to Nathaniel Chalobah’s early dismissal, Miguel Almiron’s double and goals from Callum Wilson and Sean Longstaff.
Howe, whose side had won just one of their previous seven league fixtures to that point, said: “It was a huge game for us looking back now, potentially season-defining for us because we went there with good performances, but without the wins that we wanted.
“We felt that we needed a win very quickly to turn that good feeling and positivity into actual points, and that day we performed very well.
“Yes, they had a sending-off early in the game which potentially changed the feeling and dynamic of the game, but on the day I thought we played very well.”
Fulham cemented their place in the upper reaches of the table with Thursday night’s 2-1 home win over Chelsea, and Howe is aware of the danger they pose.
He said: “They’re very much in good form. Marco has done a very, very good job with the team. I’m very impressed with the style of play – they’re not getting results by anything other than a very cohesive team unit playing a lot of really good football.”
The return of 11-goal Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic from suspension for the clash with his former club will provide an added threat and the Magpies, who have not conceded a league goal in their last four outings, have been placed on red alert.
Howe said: “He’s had an outstanding season, he’s played very, very well. He’s got unique strengths and unique strengths that are sometimes impossible to stop, kicks from the goalkeeper and his robust play.
“There will always be those moments in a game, so he’s going to be in the game. It’s up to us to defend well and try to counteract the obvious gifts that he has.”