Rooney absence will aid Newcastle – Santon

The defender refused to suggest the Magpies can finish above Manchester United ahead of their clash on Saturday, but lauded on-loan striker Loic Remy for his form at St James’ Park

EXCLUSIVE
By Miles Chambers

Davide Santon believes that Newcastle United could thrive against a Manchester United side who are without Wayne Rooney.

The Magpies enjoyed a stellar November, which saw them record four wins out of four – including victories over Chelsea and Tottenham – but they were brought crashing down to earth by a 3-0 defeat at Swansea on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old thinks that the absence of Rooney could be a god send for Alan Pardew’s men and suggested that avoiding relegation remains their main concern, rather than finishing above the Red Devils.

“The one thing we have to do is we have to try to get 40 points as soon as possible as we have to make sure we are safe,” he told Goal at a promotional event for the Next Generation of EA SPORTS FIFA 14.

“I think we are in good shape at the moment, we have 23 points, but we have to keep going. Even if against Manchester United we get a bad result then we don’t have to put ourselves down.

“Man Utd are still a big, big team. At the moment we’re on top of them but just by one point – it will be a massive game because if we win the game we go four points above them.

“Fortunately [Wayne] Rooney’s suspended, so that’s good for us. [Robin] Van Persie at the moment is not having the greatest season like last season, but I think that he’s always a dangerous striker – when he has the chance he will score.”

Loic Remy has shone while on loan from QPR, scoring eight goals in the league, and Santon is thrilled with how the France international has equipped himself on Tyneside.

“I think Loic Remy has been one of the best players for us this season, he’s been really good,” Santon continued. “He’s only on loan from QPR, but he always gives 100 per cent and hopefully he’s going to score on Saturday again.”

Italy were drawn against England, Uruguay and Costa Rica in the World Cup 2014 draw on Friday and Santon – who has not been involved in recent Azzurri squads – hopes that he can propel himself back into Cesare Prandelli’s plans.

“I hope I can get there, but it depends on my performance and what I do on the pitch,” he added. “Of course, having a great season with Newcastle will help make the Italy squad.

“But even if it’s not a great season then it will depend on my performance and what the coach in Italy expects of me.

“So that’s the point – I just have to do as much as I can do and always try to get better and better and hopefully he will call me in the future.”

Premier League Team of the Week: Fraizer Campbell shines as Cardiff down Manchester City

Only one summer signing made it into our Premier League Team of the Week but more than one man makes the cut following a return to the top flight from the lower echelons of English football.

Cardiff City were undoubtedly the story of the second round of matches, their dramatic 3-2 toppling of many people’s favourites for the title, Manchester City, stealing the headlines while two men in particular distinguished themselves.

Fraizer Campbell, let go by Sunderland in January to help push Malky Mackay’s side over the Championship promotion line last season, made an explosive comeback to the top level with two decisive goals at Cardiff City Stadium, heading home twice from corners. His game consisted of so much more than the opportunistic finishes, however, as he harried a fine back line all afternoon and earned his standout 4.5 match rating – a sweet afternoon indeed for the former Manchester United man.

Though many of his Bluebirds team-mates have a case for inclusion in our XI, club-record signing Gary Medel (4) makes the grade. The Chilean is clearly settling into life in English football quickly, putting on a magnificent defensive display in midfield to marshal City’s creative forces.

Another promoted side to secure an important first win of the season were Hull City Tigers, who shut down the much-reinforced Norwich City forward line to bank three points. James Chester (3.5) made some key tackles at the back and the former Man Utd youngster represents Steve Bruce’s side in our team of the week.

The weekend’s action kicked off on Saturday lunchtime at Fulham, where Arsenal continued to fight back against their critics with a dominant performance. Santi Cazorla (4) provided the inspiration with a brilliant show in the playmaker role, displaying shooting intent and a killer pass for the third goal in a 3-1 win.

That third was scored by Lukas Podolski (4), who also demonstrated his predator’s instincts with the opener, both left-footed strikes. The German combined well with Olivier Giroud as he shook off talk of a move to Schalke.

When it came to Monday night, there was less excitement on offer as Manchester United and Chelsea ground out a 0-0 draw but Nemanja Vidic (3.5) at least had a game of which to be proud. Though the Blues did not field any of their most prominent strikers from the off, the Serbian dealt astutely with the pace of Andre Schurrle and did more than most to ensure no chances of note for Jose Mourinho’s men.

Behind Vidic in our XI is goalkeeper Keiren Westwood (4). Looking to secure his No.1 status after Simon Mignolet’s summer departure to Liverpool, the Sunderland man made a star of himself with a series of fine saves against a Southampton side desperately trying to claw themselves back from an early goal. From the routine to the spectacular, Westwood was unfortunate not to come out of his performance a winner.

On the other side of the pitch, however, was an equally impressive figure in Southampton teenager James Ward-Prowse (4). Enjoying an attacking role on the right flank in the early stages of the season, the latest academy-grown Saints starlet was a constant threat with his deliveries and got his reward as he set up Jose Fonte’s equalising header with a free kick.

Though few attackers looked like breaking through in a dogged match at St James’ Park, Newcastle full-back Davide Santon (3.5) was the pick of the bunch in their 0-0 draw with West Ham. Offering the most forward instinct of arguably anyone in a Magpies shirt, the Italian continues to grow in stature on Tyneside.

Buoyed after a promising-but-in-vain loan spell at QPR last season, Andros Townsend (4) looks like having a greater influence at Tottenham this year and he showed his worth in a tight game against Swansea City. Brimming with confidence, the young winger was constantly running and shooting – and it was he who won the decisive penalty as Spurs kept up their winning start.

Finally, the forward line is completed by the only man who returns from our week-one TOTW, Liverpool star Daniel Sturridge (4). Flourishing in the continued absence of the banned Luis Suarez, the England international tested Aston Villa throughout and scored the difference-making goal with a classy finish after rounding Brad Guzan. The 100 per cent TOTW record is still on…

Loss to Benfica was my fault, says Newcastle's Santon

The 22-year-old has apologised for his mistake that allowed the Portuguese side to score their second goal in a 3-1 Europa League victory over the Magpies in Lisbon

Newcastle United defender Davide Santon has apologised for his defensive mistake in the midweek 3-1 Europa League quarter-final loss to Benfica.

The Italian defender was at fault as he played a sloppy back-pass to goalkeeper Tim Krul that was intercepted, resulting in Benfica’s Lima scoring to put the Portuguese side ahead.

The Magpies now need to score at least two goals in the return fixture when Benfica travel to St James’ Park if they are to have any chance of progression.

“I am feeling angry with myself,” Santon, the left-back, told The Telegraph.

“I think I had a good game against Benfica, but that pass was a disaster. As a defender, you have to make sure your pass is right, but I had Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa near me, so I couldn’t see the striker. I am really angry with myself and when I got in the dressing room, I said sorry to everybody, to all the players, because it was my fault.

“Now we have to forget about it. I have to forget my mistake and think about Sunday and then, next week, we have to score two against Benfica.”

Newcastle have league matches against Fulham and local rivals Sunderland before the return fixture, but Santon knows that focus is required.

“The Europa League is important, but the Premier League is even more important,” he said.

“We need to make sure we save our season and stay in the division.”

Santon won't return to Italy, claims agent

The Italy international had been linked with a return to his homeland with AC Milan, but interest waned and his representative Renzo Contratto believes he will stay at the club

Davide Santon looks set to remain at Newcastle United for at least another season, according to the player’s agent.

The versatile Italian full-back arrived at the Magpies in August 2011 for a reported fee of €6 million from Inter and after an injury-ravaged start he has since gone on to make the left-back position his own.

In January the defender was linked with a return to Italy with AC Milan, but nothing materialised and his agent Renzo Contratto does not believe that a move will materialise in the summer.

Contratto told Radio Crc: “I believe that Davide will remain in England because Newcastle want to count on him next season too.

“The club believe that he still has great room for improvement.”

Santon has made 36 appearances for Alan Pardew’s side in 2012-13 and scored his only goal of the season in last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Wigan.

I’d be packing my bags for Milan, admits Santon

The Italian full-back says he is happy with the Premier League club but a potential transfer to the Italian giants could persuade him to move back to his homeland

Newcastle defender Davide Santon admits he would seriously think about leaving the club if Milan made a move for him.

Having played at the San Siro before, for fierce rivals Inter, the Italian would be happy to return with Milan as he has supported them since childhood.

However, the 22-year-old has declared that with his fiancee expecting their first baby, he is happy to be living in the North East and playing for the Magpies.

“I’m really happy in Newcastle. I like the city, the club and the atmosphere,” Santon told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’m also engaged to Chloe and we’re expecting a baby in May.

“A return to Italy? At Newcastle I’m a king and I have a contract until 2016.

“But I’ve heard of the interest from Milan in me and that is really pleasing because I have been a Milan fan since I was a child.

“I’m not sure what would happen if another Italian club came in for me, but I’d seriously think about packing my bags for Milan.”

Santon also admits reuniting with former team-mate Mario Balotelli would be an extra incentive to join the Rossoneri.

He added: “Balotelli? We were still friends and I’m glad he’s doing well at Milan.

“His presence would be an incentive to accept AC Milan.”