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Four-goal Faris dreams of AFC Cup final


Mertesacker has never played in back 3

By ESPN Staff

D-Day for Toon Duff bid

Newcastle will run out at the Arasen stadium in Oslo on Saturday looking to provide £10million transfer target Damien Duff with European football.

The Magpies hope to push through a deal for the 27-year-old Chelsea winger within the next couple of days after stealing a march on rivals Tottenham.

Neither Newcastle nor the Blues were commenting on the matter on Friday, but it is understood that negotiations are under way and that chairman Freddy Shepherd is confident of persuading the Republic of Ireland international that his future lies on Tyneside.

Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder neither confrirmed or denied the rumour at his pre-match press conference.

'As you know, on a daily basis we are linked will all sorts of players,' he said.

'I think if we were to sign every player that we were linked with, we'd be confident of taking on Chelsea next year for the Premiership.

'It doesn't surprise me that we are linked with someone of quality, but you have to expect competition.

'That suggests they are very, very good players anyway. You wouldn't want to be signing players that no-one else wants, would you?'

However, it will do his chances of landing the man who cost Chelsea £17million when he moved to Stamford Bridge from Blackburn three summers ago little harm if Roeder's team can secure UEFA Cup football for the coming campaign by beating Lillestrom.

Duff's capture would come as a major boost, with skipper Alan Shearer retired and Michael Owen likely to miss the bulk of the campaign through injury.

It appeared last week that the Dubliner was bound for White Hart Lane, but Newcastle's emergence as competitors could scupper Martin Jol's hopes.

Shepherd and Roeder have spent the last few weeks in pursuit of a series of targets, but have so far encountered only brick walls.

Duff is exactly the calibre of player that would excite both his team-mates and the fans with the start of the domestic season less than a month away.

In the meantime, the only focus for Roeder and his players will be to get through a tricky tie in Norway, with the scores level at 1-1 after the first leg at St James' Park.

Lillestrom are already well into their season, and the difference in match sharpness was painfully apparent last weekend, although Roeder is expecting a lot more from his team this time around.

He said: 'I am very positive about tomorrow and I cannot look beyond anything but us getting through and going into the UEFA Cup.

'I have noticed a big difference in the players since we arrived in Norway on Wednesday.

'They now have last Saturday's game under their belts and they are a lot sharper, not only out on the training pitch, but also I feel in their minds.'

Roeder will have his only recognised specialist striker at his disposal with Shola Ameobi having recovered from the hip problem which reduced him to the role of substitute for the first leg.

That is likely to mean James Milner making way to leave Ameobi to link up with Albert Luque, the man who scored his side's equaliser a week ago.

Defender Craig Moore is also available after his return from a post-World Cup finals break, although Titus Bramble and Steven Taylor are likely to continue their central defensive partnership.

A clean sheet will prove invaluable, and that is exactly what Taylor is planning.

He said: 'We should have kept a clean sheet last Saturday, but now we are looking to do that in the second leg to get through.

'They didn't surprise us - we knew what to expect. The gaffer had been and watched them.

'We knew what their strengths would be, and that they would be a hard-working side with some good, technical players.

'The second leg is going to be difficult - and there will be 10,000 of their fans there urging their team on - but we are confident we can get the result we need.'