Premier League. Opening exchanges could be key at Leeds, says Howe

12 May 23

The key points from Eddie Howe's pre-Leeds media briefing

The Magpies head to Elland Road on Saturday (12:30pm kick-off) hoping to further boost their hopes of Champions League qualification, while the hosts desperately need the points as they fight to stay in the Premier League.

United were beaten by the title-chasing Gunners at St. James' Park last time out but with a top four spot still well within their grasp, Howe is hoping for a positive start akin to some of the fliers his side have got off to this campaign, such as in the 6-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur last month.

Here are some of the topics that were up for discussion at Howe's pre-match media briefing on Friday morning:

On Saturday's trip to Leeds and the significance of the early part of the game...

"We know it's going to be a great occasion, a great atmosphere. Elland Road is a brilliant place to paly in, so we look forward to that, but we need to be ready for what's going to come.

"It's going to be an intense atmosphere, as I say, and it's going to be a really important start to the game. I think those first 15, 20 minutes will have a huge impact on what happens afterwards."

On former Magpies boss Sam Allardyce's first game in charge of Leeds at Manchester City, and what his side can expect this weekend...

"I think we saw enough to say that that's going to be what Sam's going to give the team - a clear organisation, a clear structure, a definite philosophy in and out of possession - so for us watching it back tactically you could see the impact he's had on the team in a very short period of time.

"They're going to be tough to play against, they're going to ask questions of our back four, and we need to find the answers to those. Set plays are going to be a big threat - they're going to be very potent in that area of the game - so again we're going to have to be good, as we have been for the majority of the season in that respect. It'll be, I think, a totally different test to the one it could have been a couple of weeks earlier."

On his side's injury concerns, primarily midfielder Sean Longstaff...

"He went to see a specialist. I think there was a few concerns about maybe some structural damage in his foot which there wasn't, which is good news, but there is a bit of damage to one of the ligaments.

"He's being re-scanned today actually, which we hope will show an improvement. It's slightly unclear when he will be back - it's not a long-term issue at all, but it's whether we can get him back before the end of the season.

"We've missed him a lot. I've always said this season that he goes under the radar in terms of what he gives the team tactically, technically and physically. I think he's a high-level player and he's got a really good football brain. I think we've missed those qualities that he has but as always you have to adapt when someone's missing, and I believe we have the players to cover.

"Matt (Ritchie) has picked up a knee injury - I don't think it's too bad, but I think it will keep him out for the rest of the season."

On the defeat to Arsenal last weekend and the need to respond...

"We've analysed the Arsenal game and there was a lot of good. It was very close to being a really good performance I felt - the ability to take our chances really was what was missing on the day, otherwise that could have been a similar performance to Manchester United at home and the other really good games we've had at home in recent weeks.

"It's about calmness, really, and not overreacting to a defeat but making sure the players are aware how different this game is going to be from other games we've had.

"This will have parallels to the Everton game in terms of Leeds will have a lot of similar strengths to the Everton game, the crowd will be similar. The key thing about that game is we got the first goal and we were very good at certain aspects of our defending in that match, so I think that's the game we have to look at and try and mirror that performance really."

On assistant coach Jason Tindall, who has become a cult figure online in recent weeks, and his long-standing association with Howe...

"It's a funny one - I've spent the last half an hour laughing with him about certain things and certain things he's been sent. It's crazy how the internet and social media can create these things.

"I think I said in a recent interview that to understand Jason's role, you have to go back to where we started, you have to do that. It gives a little bit of context to the reason he's in those situations.

"We started with no money, no real facilities, working with a group of players and it was just the two of us, and we did everything together - you name it, we did it. We were a partnership, we travelled to watch the opposition, five hours away, we'd go in a car together, so it was really just the two of us. We've never changed that approach throughout our journey together."

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