By Francisco Delgado
Newcastle defender Fabricio Coloccini believes that the pressure will be on Manchester United when the two sides meet at the Sports Direct Arena on Wednesday.
The champions were stunned on New Year's Eve when Blackburn Rovers triumphed 3-2 at Old Trafford, ending a run of five straight Premier League victories for Sir Alex Ferguson's side since the 1-1 draw with the Magpies at the end of November.
Coloccini feels the Red Devils will have everything to play for when they visit the north east – especially since title rivals Manchester City won on Tuesday night – and has backed his side’s chances of getting a result against last season’s Champions League finalists.
"The game against Manchester United is not just another game. There are three valuable points to play for, for both teams, so I expect a dogfight because both of us need to win," said the 29-year-old.
"If we win we can connect with the top part of the table in the fight for European competition. That's our aim this year and we want to stay in the race.
"At St James' Park and with the atmosphere there, we should be able to beat any rival. Just by making ourselves strong at home, we can aspire to greater things in the Premier League.
Col of duty | The Argentine defender is confident ahead of facing the champions
"It's true that we are playing against Manchester United and they are champions, but this season they have lost games and that gives us more belief to search for the victory on Wednesday.
"They will be more pressured because they have just lost at Old Trafford and they will already know how Manchester City have got on. That is a small advantage for us but to beat them we will have to give everything on the pitch.
"Whether Wayne Rooney plays or not doesn't depend on us, but his absence would be one problem less for our defence.
"We have had our ups and downs in the last few weeks, but if we beat United we will approach the second part of the championship with the belief and the conviction that we can fight for Europe.
"At Liverpool we played well, but perhaps the result [a 3-1 defeat] was excessive. That's forgotten now though and our aim is to start 2012 with a prestigious victory.
"In the last few rounds of matches there have been a lot of surprise results because the Premier League is more competitive than any other, and any team can beat the big sides."
The experienced defender has been in fine form so far this season as Newcastle have battled
to stay in contention for a top-six finish, leading to speculation linking him with a move away from the club.
The Argentina international was quick to play down the reports, choosing to concentrate on
continuing his side’s strong start to the campaign.
"I have never wanted to pay attention to rumours about offers from other clubs,” he added. “I have experienced this at many clubs and the best thing is to focus on your work and wait for
"One of the names mentioned was Liverpool, but I haven't spoken to anybody. And I don't think Newcastle are thinking about my exit."
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