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By ESPN Staff

Under-strength Newcastle insist Uefa Cup matters

Newcastle coach Glenn Roeder has confirmed his side are taking the UEFA Cup seriously, despite bringing a largely reserve squad to Palermo.

Damian Duff, Celestine Babayaro and Stephen Carr were all left behind with slight knocks while Scott Parker will also be given extra time to recover from an ankle injury picked up against Charlton at the weekend.

Youngsters Fraser Foster, Tim Krul, Paul Huntington, Matty Pattison, Alan O'Brien, James Troisi and Andy Carroll, on the other hand, were all included in his 23-man squad.

Roeder insisted: 'I have a reputation for playing young players if required and that may be the case tomorrow.

'This is what these boys dream of at Newcastle and I would not have brought them if I didn't feel they had the potential.'

Krul is the most likely of the seven to start, with goalkeeper Steven Harper struggling with injury and facing a fitness test tomorrow morning.

Roeder explained: 'Steve Harper has had a small problem over the last few weeks which he has been getting away with.

'If the situation tomorrow is that Krul has to start, I have no problem with that whatsoever.

'He is Holland's best young goalkeeper and will be challenging to become our number one in the future.'

It will certainly be a baptism of fire for Krul, or whoever else makes his debut against a side Roeder believes are 'one of the favourites for the UEFA Cup'.

The joint Serie A leaders beat Fiorentina last weekend and have already taken three points from the San Siro, the home of AC Milan, to merit their place alongside Inter at the summit of Italian football.

They have also merited a thorough evaluation by Roeder's scouting team.

Roeder revealed: 'We have seen them play five times, which is perhaps more than normal.

'We have gone into great depth and I have spoken to West Ham's chief scout, who has already scouted Palermo for them.

'They are a very good team with some very good individuals who could all play very well in the Premier League.

'Like I have said, tomorrow we are playing one of the favourites for the UEFA Cup this season.

'I have always appreciated Italian football and Italian players and they are some of the best in the world.'

Alberto Luque was held in similarly high regard when he joined Newcastle for £9.5million from Deportivo La Coruna.

However, the 28-year-old has never really been able to show his full value in a troublesome time with the Magpies.

Due to injuries to Obafemi Martins, Shola Ameobi and Michael Owen, the Spaniard will be given the opportunity to remind the club why Graeme Souness splashed out the cash almost 18 months ago.

Roeder said: 'All I can do is provide the stage, it is up to him to show what he can do.

'This is a huge opportunity for him to show me, Newcastle United and our supporters what he is capable of doing - and to prove he has a future.

'I think he was very happy when I told him he would play and now it is up to Alberto Luque to make the step up and show why (Graeme) Souness paid that money for him.'

Although the UEFA Cup may be the poor man's alternative to the Champions League - and while it does provide the possible inconvenience of playing a big game just 48 hours before a Barclays Premiership match - Roeder is committed to keeping his side in the tournament as long as possible.

While the president of Palermo's Serie A rivals Livorno, Aldo Spinelli, claimed earlier this week his side would be better off going out of the competition in the group stage, Roeder is proud his side are still involved.

He added: 'We are taking the UEFA Cup seriously and, although we have got to improve our Premiership form, the UEFA Cup is still a priority.

'We want to go as far as we can in the competition, but know it is going to be difficult tomorrow, given the form they are in.

'All of my players are looking forward to the game tomorrow.'