Ahead of Newcastle v Sheffield Wednesday on Boxing Day night, Glenn Loovens says the Magpies are ‘the team to beat’.

The visiting captain acknowledges ‘what a big club Newcastle are and what great players they have’.

However, he says that despite Sheffield Wednesday having up and down form, they will come to St James Park ‘without fear’.

With Blackburn, Wolves and Huddersfield all already having take three points from their visits, it is clear that Newcastle do have their occasional off days.

With Jonjo Shelvey missing on Monday, it creates an extra problem for Rafa Benitez, whilst no doubt giving Sheffield Wednesday a lift.

Having won their last two games, both local derbies, against Barnsley and Rotherham, Loovens feels it has really set the Owls up the challenge of Newcastle.

Sheffield Wednesday could go third and only nine points behind Newcastle, if they win, whilst United have a potential carrot of going four points clear at the top, 12 clear of Reading and 15 ahead of Wednesday who are currently sixth.

Glenn Loovens:

“Newcastle are, of course, the ones to beat at the moment.

“We all know what a big club Newcastle are and what great players they have, so they are the team to beat.

“We will go there without fear.

“We’ll play our own game and fight for every yard that we’re worth.

Our form has been a little bit up and down until recently where we have had a bit of consistency.

“We have not taken the chances we have been creating in games which is frustrating. The crowd can see that we have not taken all our chances and it has been frustrating but they know we are playing well.

“On our day, we are a match for anyone in the league.

“It was important we won these two games (against Barnsley and Rotherham) if we want to be up there at the end of the season.

“You need to win these type of games, especially at home.

I’m very glad we won them both and we can now look forward to a good week of training with Christmas at the end and a fantastic game coming up.”