TIM KRUL expects Newcastle United to display a marked improvement now they have the “spine of their team” available for the final two-and-a-half months of the season.
Fabricio Coloccini, Cheik Tiote and Loic Remy all returned to action in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa, a game that halted a run of five successive home defeats.
Since the turn of the year, Newcastle’s form has nose-dived, but the absence of arguably the club’s best defender, midfielder and centre-forward has been a huge contributory factor.
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With the trio available again, the Magpies look much more solid, and with three of the next four matches coming against teams in the bottom half of the table, Krul expects Sunday’s success to mark the start of a sustained positive run.
“With Remy, Coloccini and Tiote, that’s three massive players coming back for us and it’s no real surprise that their return made a big difference,” said the goalkeeper. “They all made a big difference to how things went.
ALL SMILES: Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul has a positive outlook
“When you look at the run we had been on, you have to factor in the fact that we were missing three absolutely huge players for the team. They’re the spine of the team really, and I think a lot of people have forgotten that.
“Even (Yoan) Gouffran was out for a while as well. If you have Remy suspended, and are also without Tiote and Coloccini for a number of weeks, that’s really the heart of the team. Look at what they showed against Aston Villa. They are massive players and it’s a huge plus that they’re back now.”
While Remy hogged the headlines as his 12th goal of the season finally broke down Villa’s resistance, it was Coloccini’s return at centre-half that perhaps did most to ensure Newcastle finally returned to winning ways.
The Argentinian has been missing since damaging his knee ligaments in the New Year’s Day defeat at West Brom, and in his absence, Alan Pardew’s side shipped goals left, right and centre as their defence disintegrated.
Coloccini’s partnership with Mike Williamson was one of the key factors in Newcastle’s resilience in the first half of the season, and the pair immediately picked up where they had left off at the weekend.
“We’ve missed him, and he slips back into things like he’s never been away,” said Krul. “That’s not to say anything against any of the other lads, but he’s a really big miss. Against Aston Villa, he showed once again what a fantastic player he is.
“We worked on the defensive shape really well all week. The manager wanted to keep the door closed, because in the last few weeks we’ve been really open.
“Colo made a big difference, and Willo also made a fantastic interception that we celebrated like a goal. Those are the moments that set the fans off, and maybe that gave us the edge.”
Meanwhile, Montpellier are making preparations for the summer departure of long-standing Newcastle transfer target Remy Cabella.
The Magpies attempted to sign Cabella as a replacement for Yohan Cabaye in the closing stages of last month’s transfer window, but were unable to agree a fee with Montpellier president Louis Nicollin, who was adamant the attacking midfielder would not be allowed to leave while his club’s Ligue 1 safety hung in the balance.
With Cabella to the fore, Montpellier have now pulled to within a point of the top half of the table, and Nicollin has begun to line up a potential replacement for the 23-year-old, who scored his tenth league goal of the season at the weekend.
French sources claim Montpellier have approached Ligue 2 side Nancy about Haiti international Jeff Louis, who is regarded as the brightest attacking talent in the French second division.
Cabella is expected to be one of Newcastle’s leading summer targets, but the Magpies could face a fight to hold on to Mathieu Debuchy, with German champions Bayern Munich having become the latest club to be linked with the in-demand full-back.