NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe is backing former Liverpool keeper Loris Karius to ‘handle the occasion’ as he looks set to make his Newcastle United debut in the Carabao Cup final.
The German keeper only signed for United in late 2022 as an injury replacement for Karl Darlow, who has since left for Hull City on loan. And due to the ineligibility of No. 2 Martin Dubravka, who is cup-tied due to appearing in the competition for this weekend’s opponents Manchester United, and a ban received this week by No. 1 Nick Pope, Karius is set to make his Magpies’ bow at Wembley on Sunday.
It will be Karius’ first final appearance since the 2018 Champions League final, in which he was to blame for two of Real Madrid’s three goals as the Reds were beaten 3-1.
Howe, though, knows that despite a lack of first-team action in recent times, the 29-year-old is fit and ready to take his place in the United XI.
“Loris has got incredible experiences. I’ve no doubts he can handle the occasion,” Howe said.
“No, not so much (concerned with lack of games) as it would be with an outfield player. Obviously, an outfield player, you’d have severe doubts about their physical performance. Are they able to last the game? With a goalkeeper, the skills are totally different.
“They (Karius and Mark Gillespie) have had games. They’ve had a lot of training games. They’re involved in everything. What they need to do, they’ve got it there. They just haven’t had that crowd in front of them when they do it. That’s the only difference.
“I understand it’s probably preferable if they had, but they haven’t.”
Karius’ time at Liverpool is largely defined by that disastrous final performance, but Howe does not think the player needs any special treatment when it comes to the build-up to what is Newcastle’s biggest game in 24 years.
“I’d be speaking to all my players on a one-to-one basis,” retorted Howe at the prospect of having a word in Karius’ ear.
“I’d speak to him as I speak to all my players to find out what they need, whether that’s training, help in any aspect of their play, getting their preparation right and they know what’s expected. That’s something I’ll speak to all the players about.”
Pope will sit out his first United game since August in the capital this weekend, having been handed a straight red card in the 2-0 home loss to Liverpool last time out.
Howe had talked of exploring every option in order to overturn the decision, but has since revealed the club did not appeal Pope’s ban.
“No, we didn’t appeal,” he said.
“As much as I felt sorry for Nick, and felt that the red card was really harsh for what he did, abiding by the rules, we didn’t think it worth appealing.
“I spoke to him Saturday night. He’s disappointed, he’s trying to process it all, but he’s so level-headed and team-orientated. His initial thought wasn’t with himself, it was with the team and what he needed to do to help whoever was playing,
“He’s an incredible personality, and I hope he gets another chance soon to play in a high-profile game like this.”
Meanwhile, on the selection front, Howe will be able to call on the services of Bruno Guimaraes, after the Brazilian sat out the last three games due to suspension.
News is awaited on Joe Willock, though, who is “touch and go” while Matt Targett should be available.
Howe said: “Certainly, Matt Targett’s improved a lot. He had a game at the weekend. We thought it was wise to leave him out of the game, and really pleased with his fitness. I was really pleased with what he did, so I’d say yeah, he’ll be available for selection.
“Joe Willock will probably be touch and go during the week. He’s improved, (it will) probably be a late decision on him.”