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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 1, 2008

Keegan to test Toon progress against Chelsea

Kevin Keegan insists he does not care where the Premier League trophy ends up this season as he prepares to blow a hole in Chelsea's glory charge.

The Londoners kept their Double hopes on track with Wednesday night's dramatic Champions League semi-final victory over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge to set up another duel with Manchester United.

Avram Grant and Sir Alex Ferguson will go head-to-head in Moscow on May 21 with Europe's biggest prize at stake.

However, the league title will already have been decided by then, and Newcastle could yet have a major role to play in its destination.

Chelsea head for St James' Park on Monday afternoon, by which point they could be trailing leaders United by three points once again provided the men from Old Trafford beat West Ham on Saturday lunchtime.

But for Keegan, all that will matter is extending his side's seven-game unbeaten run to see how far they have come during his time at the helm.

He said: 'I was talking to (West Ham boss) Alan Curbishley after our game at Upton Park on Saturday - they have got to go to Old Trafford on Saturday and we have got Chelsea at home on the Monday.

'I guess they might have the harder game on paper, but we have got a chance to go and see how far we have come. It will be a great atmosphere at St James'.

'I really don't care who wins the title, but I want us to put in a performance against Chelsea and if by doing that, we help Manchester United win the title, that's just the way it goes. We are trying to win a game.

'No doubt about it, this is the greatest league in the world, and if you need that underlining, just look at the league table and what's to play for with two games left. It's incredible.'

There would be a certain irony about Keegan helping Ferguson to clinch yet another title after the pair clashed so famously in 1996 when United snatched the trophy from the Magpies' grasp with a stunning late run.

However, those days will be a distant memory as the 57-year-old prepares to rebuild his side to mount a new challenge.

The very best 12th-placed Newcastle can hope for this season is a top-half finish, and even that is unlikely with the Hammers five points clear in 10th with just two games to play.

But that is a far healthier situation than the one in which they found themselves before they embarked upon their run of improved form.

A settled side - Keegan has picked the same team in five of the last seven games and made changes only because of the enforced absences of first Steven Taylor and then Abdoulaye Faye - has helped, and the manager sees no point in unnecessary disruption.

However, striker Mark Viduka has been playing with an Achilles injury and amid speculation he could require surgery during the summer, Australia coach Pim Verbeek has resigned himself to losing the 32-year for his country's four World Cup qualifiers next month.

Verbeek, who has received assurances from the player that he wants to continue his international career in the run-up to the 2010 finals in South Africa, admitted he would be a huge loss.

He said: 'Nobody can do the same as Mark Viduka. I have seen enough games in England and Europe - he is special.

'You don't see players like him very often. He is so important for the team he is playing at.

'We don't have players like that. With all respect for Scott (McDonald), Josh (Kennedy), Archie Thompson and John Aloisi, if we can use him, we will use him; if he is ready, he will come.

'We have some players who can do a great job also, but if we get a chance to use Mark, we will do it.'