Mikel Merino made only his second Premier League start since December at Anfield and didn’t impress many Newcastle fans.

With Rafa’s team defending for most of the match the midfielder says ‘I felt tired out there…’ and said afterwards that a lack of games is a big factor in your energy levels.

The 21 year old believes that only now is he getting back to full fitness and training ‘with high intensity’.

Football fans often have short memories and for some, they are finding it difficult to remember just how influential Mikel Merino was in giving Newcastle a foothold this season in the top tier.

He was a key figure in the three wins against West Ham, Stoke and Swansea, then picked up a back injury in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool at St James Park.

Rafa tried to ease him through the back problem by using Merino off the bench and the player came on to help Newcastle get a 2-2 draw at Southampton and then scored the late winner at home to Palace as a sub.

After nine matches Newcastle had 14 points and the Spanish Under 21 international had been key to that.

Ruled out for over five weeks, Newcastle didn’t pick up another point until Mikel Merino came back into the team for the 2-2 draw with West Brom.

Not able to get fully fit and shake off his back injury, Rafa Benitez has only given the former Dortmund player one start since December, the 1-1 home draw with Burnley.

A tough introduction back into the team against Liverpool with Shelvey injured, Mikel Merino will only improve, and could be a key figure in the survival battle.

Easy to forget as well that he is the youngest in the team and first season in the Premier League – I wish all of our previous foreign imports had had such a positive initial impact as Mikel Merino has had.

With time and patience we will have some player.

Mikel Merino:

“I felt tired out there…

“When you are not playing regularly that is normal – because minutes on the pitch give you energy.

“I feel good but of course it is not easy when you are defending all the game, I worked hard and tried to do what the coach wanted.

“Jonjo Shelvey may be missing again, so I have to be ready, I need to take advantage of any opportunity I get.

“I have recovered from my back injury, though I have had other problems too, but I now feel fit.

“I am now training with high intensity and ready whenever the coach needs me.

“Every game is important, we try to approach every one with the same mentality, but maybe the next two games at home (Southampton and Huddersfield) are a little bit easier than this one.

“Not at the high level of Liverpool, but we know the way we have to play is the same as we played against Manchester United and Bournemouth.”

Liverpool are a top side winning a lot of games, while we are battling against relegation.

“There was a big difference between the two sets of players technically, but we tried out best to defend together but in the end, they took their opportunities.

“It is difficult to defend for 90 minutes because they pass the ball so well and drag you out of position.

“They find spaces and you end up exhausted.

“Once they scored their first goal, it made it easier for them but in the second half I think we kept pushing until the end, that is the positive we have to take from this game.

“Our goal difference is always important for us, and when we play big teams, we are not losing by big margins.

“Everyone can see the team is working hard and we know goal difference will be important, though of course it is not good to lose a game.

“We were not keeping it tight just to avoid conceding goals, we tried to keep it tight because that was the way we could get something out of the game.

“I’m not saying there is a good way to lose.”

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  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    The lads not match fit he couldn`t possibly put in a high performance against a team like Liverpool, having said that we need Jonjo back Asap

    • Leazes.

      Show me a time when he has been fit?

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        Good question

      • FatParosite

        Buy cheap… pay twice.

        • thewildchimp

          True, but he’s quality, we should keep him.

  • Leazes.

    Yes indeed some people have short memories…. but luckily I have transfermarkt which showed that before his transfer from Dortmund he hadn’t been in the squad for just about an entire season.

    Like all of Rafa’s bargains in fact, you see the ‘not in squad’ label, and you end up scratching your head and saying to yourself….. ‘but this isn’t a player for the coming Rafalution’ surely!

    Then a few weeks ago Ashley is interrupted in a Mayfair coffee shop and says to a fan that he’s not going to purchase players for a club he has no interest in….. and you say to yourself…. ah!

    …..’that’s why we have the third highest paid manager in charge of a championship level squad’. He’s banking on a manager raising the level of output like he does at shirebrook where the workers get close to national minimum wages and the managers get huge bonuses for achieving targets….

    … its a philosophy of sorts!

    • Ram Kishore

      Wow a fantastic description
      Awesome Leazes

    • MadMag83

      Said this month’s ago. It has the added bonus for Ashley that if it all goes pear shaped, he can point to Benitez on his big salary and blame him rather than his chronic under investment in the squad. And idiots will believe him!

    • Rich Lawson

      If only we delivered as fast as Amazon (hate them) !

  • Anita kick up the Hoop

    This lad is an absolute quality footballer who’s had a serious injury, moved to a new country and played in a side without top class forwards … his fitness will return as will his form … if this lad is a Newcastle player in 5 years time it will mean we are successful.. his future is bright wherever he ends up playing .. fingers crossed it’s here.

  • Monkseaton Magpies

    You need at least five games to get to full fitness in the Premier League so not surprising he was a little off the pace against a good side. Will have a better game next week as will Kennedy.

  • Philippines

    Is there not some training technique that can replicate the fitness requirement for a full game?

    • thewildchimp

      Only the biggest clubs can afford to have two squads of top tier quality. Apart from that, you can always run miles with periodical sprints in order to somewhat recreate the football match conditions. But practicing running will only turn you into – a good runner.

  • Albert Stubbins

    Class player just needs a few games under his belt that’s all.