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Europa League round of 16 draw

Europa League

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Newcastle lose injured Beye for relegation decider

Defender Habib Beye has been ruled out of Newcastle's crucial final game of the season at Aston Villa.

Beye, the club's only recognised right-back, has failed to recover from a hamstring injury which means manager Alan Shearer will have to deploy another player in an unfamiliar position up against the pace of Ashley Young.

With Sebastien Bassong suspended for the red card he picked up in the home defeat to Fulham last week and left-back Luis Enrique just back in training after three weeks out, the Magpies' defensive resources will be stretched to the absolute limit.

Skipper Michael Owen will undergo a late fitness test while Obafemi Martins is also nursing a groin problem

Newcastle must better Hull's result on Sunday or, if both teams win, hope Sunderland do not get three points at home to Chelsea and Shearer says Newcastle's crucial clash with Aston Villa is bigger than any cup final.

"It's bigger than a cup final, a hell of a lot bigger than a cup final,'' he said. "The question has been asked on four or five occasions over the last four or five games, 'Is this the biggest game of your career?', and I keep answering, 'Yes, because it's the next one'.

"But we know what's at stake, we know what's riding on it and I am pretty confident we can go there and give our great fans something to shout about, I really am.

"I am totally convinced we will get out of it, yes, and I think more importantly, so are my players.

"I asked them to forget last weekend's result, whether we thought we played well or whether we thought we played badly or had good decisions, bad decisions.

"That's gone, we can't change that. What we can change is this weekend and I believe if we go there and win, it will be a very very good day for us.''

Shearer is not even considering the financial cost of relegation. He said: "Funnily enough, at this moment in time, I am not interested in the cash implications.

"I am not important in this, Mike Ashley is not important in this. What is important is the football club. That will always be bigger and better than any one individual.

"Hopefully, I am standing on Monday morning talking about Newcastle as a Premier League football club. That's the aim.''

Football is rife with hyperbole, and Shearer has described successive games as the biggest of his career. But asked if there has been a little too much hype in recent weeks, his answer was unequivocal.

He said: "They are only football matches, are they? Is that all? They are pretty big.''

His assessment of the Villa game was equally frank.

Speculation continues over the former Newcastle skipper's continued presence at St James' Park no matter what happens this weekend, although he is refusing to contribute towards it.

Shearer said: "We have now got a chance to save Newcastle - that's the important thing. Anything else can wait, and anything else is irrelevant.''

Instead he will concentrate on events at Villa Park, all the while hoping that Sir Alex Ferguson will do him a favour by fielding a side which can beat Hull, something of which he is convinced despite a week-long debate.

Shearer said: "He has got a very important game on Wednesday, a huge game, a European Cup final, so he can play whatever players he wants, he can rest whatever players he wants.

"But we are talking about Manchester United here, the biggest and best squad in the league, so whatever team he puts out will be capable of beating Hull.''


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