Keeper Darlow says Newcastle can fight for cup progress and promotion

Karl Darlow

Karl Darlow

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Karl Darlow feels Newcastle United can fight on two fronts.

The promotion-chasing club takes on Oxford United in a fourth-round FA Cup tie tomorrow.

Rafa Benitez is likely to name a weakened team ahead of Championship fixtures against QPR and Derby.

Darlow – who has not played in a cup game since September – is likely to be rested at the Kassam Stadium. The goalkeeper, however, believes second-placed United can enjoy a run in the competition and continue to progress in the league.

“We have to prepare properly again,” said 26-year-old. “Whether the manager rotates the squad again, I don’t know, but we know we’re strong and we want to get through to the next round. That’s the next hurdle for us.

“We’re used to being a scalp, and that’ll definitely be the way Oxford are looking at things at the weekend.

“Everyone knows about FA Cup shocks, and we have to make sure we’re not on the wrong end of that.

“We just need to make sure we concentrate, and we play our football, like we have in the last few games.

“We need to carry on with a bit of momentum, and hopefully get ourselves in the next round.”

Meanwhile, Jaap Stam says his Reading team can’t catch Newcastle in the Championship – as it’s now become a three-horse race.

League leaders Brighton are two points ahead of second-placed Newcastle. In-form Leeds are third in the division, and fourth-placed Reading are nine points adrift of Benitez’s side.

Newcastle and Reading meet at the Madejski Stadium on March 7, but Stam does not believe his team can catch the Magpies.

“It’s difficult to get them,” said Stam, whose side was beaten 4-1 at St James’s Park early in the season.

“Brighton have been up there in the past couple of seasons, and have been working on their team in that time in getting players in and playing in a certain way.

“Newcastle got relegated, spent a lot of money to get quality players in, and you see with a good coach (Benitez) if you do it well, then it’s very hard for the other teams who don’t have the money to get other players to get close to them. We are fourth in the league, but we are not thinking about trying to beat them in the sense of ending up first or second.”

Brazilian midfielder Gabriel, 23, has emerged as a potential transfer target for Benitez. Reports in Spain claim that Newcastle are interested in signing Gabriel on loan from Leganes.