Eddie Howe hopes Newcastle can secure a top-six Premier League finish

Eddie Howe had told his Newcastle players their European hopes lie in their own hands as they target a rousing end to the Premier League season.

The Magpies’ chances of reeling in fifth-placed Tottenham were all-but extinguished by Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Brighton at St James’ Park as Spurs came from behind to relegate Burnley, but Chelsea and Manchester United are hot on their heels.

Howe’s men head for Old Trafford on Wednesday evening before a final-day trip to Brentford and he is confident they can get across the finishing line.

Howe said: “Yes, it’s in our hands. Our goal difference is really strong. You’d always prefer it that way, you can control what you can control, we don’t have to look at other results.

“But still, you don’t take anything for granted. We know how difficult these two games are going to be.”

Newcastle have won only once in the league at United since 1972, but have tasted victory on each of the last three occasions the sides have met, and Howe is hoping for an extension of that form to book a second successive season of European competition.

He said: “We want to be in those competitions consistently. And as flippant as that sounds, it’s so difficult to do because you can see the teams we’re competing against for those positions.

“You can see we’re doing everything we can and we have done everything we can throughout the season, a long tough campaign in difficult conditions, to try to hit those targets.”

On a sweltering Tyneside afternoon, Joel Veltman stabbed the visitors into an 18th-minute lead after Danny Welbeck had helped on Pascal Gross’ corner.

But Sean Longstaff levelled in stoppage time at the end of the first half, in the process ensuring the current Magpies team became the first for 65 years to score in every home game in a top-flight campaign.

Anthony Gordon thought he had won it five minutes from time, but an offside flag halted his celebrations.

Howe said: “I just felt second half, that goal might give us the momentum needed to go and win the game, but it just didn’t happen.”

Opposite number Roberto De Zerbi, who revealed striker Danny Welbeck is close to signing a contract extension, was delighted with his side’s performance and challenged them to secure a top-10 finish with home games against Chelsea and Manchester United.

De Zerbi said: “I am really pleased with the performance. We could win the game, we could lose the game and we played against one of the best teams in terms of physical condition at this moment.

“We have another two games at home, two very tough games, but we would like to finish in the top 10.

“It’s not a big, big result, but if you consider that this season for the first time we played in the Europa League, if you consider how many injuries we have had, I think finishing in the top 10 would be a great, great result, better than last season.”

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