MAGPIES HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR - SOLANO - 18/11/2005
Newcastle midfielder Nolberto Solano heads for Chelsea on Saturday insisting his side should not be afraid of the Barclays Premiership leaders.
Graeme Souness' men travel south having lost just one of their last nine games in all competitions but facing the sternest test yet of their improving form.
However, 30-year-old Peruvian Solano is confident they have what it takes to compete with Jose Mourinho's side.
"I know how excited everyone is here now that things have changed," he said. "I hope we continue to build on that foundation.
"Saturday is a hard game, but it's a good test for us. On paper, we are not a bad team - we are quite strong and probably not that far away from Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
"But we need to prove that in the type of game we have on Saturday. I know at Stamford Bridge, it's hard for any team, but that's the game. We don't have to be afraid of anyone.
"They are a good team - they proved that last season, that's why they won the title - but you never know. They are the favourites on paper, but on Saturday we have to go there and give 100%.
"We know how much quality they have, but they have been giving the odd chance away lately and we have to go there believing we have a chance to win the game.
"We need to get points from this game. If we beat them, that would be fantastic, it would be huge for the confidence of the team.
"At worst, we have to try to take a point because we know Chelsea are a hard team to beat, but I hope we can continue our good run because we have another hard game at Everton next weekend and Wigan away in the Carling Cup."
Solano and his midfield colleagues - Lee Bowyer could be drafted into a quintet in the middle of the pitch if Souness decides not to replace skipper Alan Shearer, who is still recovering from hernia surgery, with Shola Ameobi - know they will have a major battle on their hands.
Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard have formed one of the most formidable central partnerships in Europe, although again, Solano is adamant that fear and trepidation cannot be allowed to hamper their efforts.
"We can't be too worried about them," he said. "Everybody knows how good they are, but if we let them have it too easy, then it will be game over because we know Lampard can score, they've got (Damien) Duff, (Eidur) Gudjohnsen - quality players who can score any time.
"But we have to go there and not be afraid of that. We have to enjoy the game, concentrate, try to stop them getting at us too easily, because if we don't do that, it will be a very hard game for our defenders.
"We have to work as a unit - not only the defenders have to defend. We need to start from Michael Owen. We know they are a hard team to beat, but we are going there confident.
"Michael is in good form - he can score at any time - and if we keep a clean sheet at the back and don't give chances away, we will see. Anything can happen."
Owen returns to domestic action after his late heroics in England's 3-2 friendly victory over Argentina with Souness, a Scotsman thrilled by his headed double.
"There were no mixed feelings, I'm absolutely delighted," he said. "But he's got to score the goals for us, that's more important for me, getting goals for Newcastle United.
"Michael Owen has always been a good header of the ball - I can remember him scoring a goal by out-muscling Henning Berg in a game at Blackburn one day. He scored at Blackburn with a header again this season.
"He does get goals with his head. His timing is right and he's powerful."
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