INJURED Fabricio Coloccini is backing his Newcastle United team-mates to continue their European charge without him, writes MILES STARFORTH.
Coloccini will miss the Magpies’ next two games after suffering a hamstring injury.
Next up for Alan Pardew’s side, level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League, are Liverpool at a sold-out Sports Direct Arena on Sunday.
Newcastle are eight points clear of Kenny Dalglish’s team, who have lost their last two games.
Dalglish and his players are under intense pressure ahead of their visit to Tyneside.
United, by contrast, are buoyant, and Coloccini has challenged his colleagues to build on back-to-back wins over West Brom and Norwich and push Roberto Di Matteo’s side for an automatic Europa League place.
“Now we are eight points ahead of Liverpool, which is good,” Coloccini said.
“That is good, and now we’re looking at Chelsea. We will try to pass them.
“The manager has said we have to be calm, and keep going.
“We have eight games left, and we have to give everything if we are to take fifth place.”
Finishing ahead of Chelsea was far from the minds of Newcastle’s players before a ball was kicked this season, when the aim was to break into the league’s top 10 after a 12th-placed finish last term.
However, having got themselves into such a strong position, there’s a determination to see the job through and take the club back into European competition after an absence of five years.
“I would love to captain this team in Europe,” added Coloccini.
“Qualifying for Europe is very important for the fans, and it’s very important for the club and the players.”
Coloccini – who has suffered a grade one hamstring tear – is expected to return for the home game against Bolton on Easter Monday.
H Everton have signed a three-year kit deal Nike, starting from next season.
The sportswear giant take over from Le Coq Sportif and will be the official and recognised technical partner on all of Everton’s match and training kits.
The new deal, negotiated in close collaboration with their retail and merchandise partner Kitbag, is the first with Nike.
“We’re all excited by the prospect of working with Nike’s design, marketing and retailing teams,” said Toffees chief executive Robert Elstone.
“We look forward to seeing some impressive, original kits and products, as well as being on hand to take advantage of new retail opportunities that we’ll be working with Kitbag to drive forward.
“Nike has an impeccable reputation and we are confident that our supporters will be excited by the new partnership, with all of us looking forward to seeing our new home shirt this summer.”