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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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By ESPN Staff

Allardyce joins moaners over fixture programme

Newcastle manager Sam Allardyce has called for action to prevent clubs being penalised for recruiting top international players.

The Magpies will complete a gruelling run of fixtures tomorrow when they visit Manchester City in the Premier League for their third match in a week.

Allardyce's men beat West Ham 3-1 in the league on Sunday before going down 2-0 at Arsenal in the Carling Cup barely 48 hours later, and now face a tough trip to Eastlands tomorrow lunchtime desperate to bounce back.

That all followed a lacklustre defeat at lowly Derby in the wake of the break for international matches which, Allardyce is discovering, is no break for clubs fielding teams full of international players.

He said: 'It is a constant battle for the big four, so just listen to what they say and you will know exactly what I am saying. It's not an excuse, it's a fact. It's a reality that we have to live with.

'We had 14 players all over the world playing two games, Friday-Tuesday if it was under-21s, or Saturday-Wednesday, and then tripping all the way back over here.

'I used to look at the fixtures when I was at Bolton and used to pray that when we got the big boys, it was either between international fixtures or between Champions League fixtures and I could set out the stall.

'Very few of my players would be away on international duty or we were not playing in Europe and we would have a full squad ready to match them in the physical areas - in fact, be better than them because of their fatigue.

'That often brought us very good results - when you win at Old Trafford twice on the trot, you have got to stand up and listen to what I am saying.'

Ironically, Tuesday's defeat at the Emirates Stadium means Newcastle's fixture list will be less busy than they might have hoped during the next few months, although Allardyce will see his internationals head off again next month for Euro 2008 double-headers.

However, the ongoing saga surrounding star striker Michael Owen's groin injury means he is likely to remain on Tyneside throughout as the Magpies face up to losing him for at least three weeks.

Shola Ameobi (groin) is likely to join him on the sidelines this weekend but Mark Viduka is expected to shake off a foot injury to partner Obafemi Martins in attack.

However, while goals will be a major focus this weekend, preventing them at the other end will once again be one of Allardyce's priorities against Sven-Goran Eriksson in-form side.

He said: 'That's the ultimate to your success. The team that wins the league is the one with the most clean sheets, that will never change.

'That's all that really matters - if you can win and entertain, that's even better. You will always be forgiven if you play poorly and win.'