Steve McClaren hopes Newcastle United can extend their unbeaten Premier League run to four matches when they host Everton on Boxing Day.
Newcastle have enjoyed an upturn in form in recent weeks to climb out of the bottom three, only denied a third straight win by Jordan Ayew’s stunning equaliser for Aston Villa last time out.
That mini-revival has eased the pressure on McClaren after a shocking start to the campaign which brought only two wins from their opening 14 matches.
But with confidence returning to his squad, the former England boss hopes to inflict more misery on Everton – who have not won in four – and move Newcastle further away from the relegation zone.
“We’ve had two or three times when we’ve thought we can kick on and then we’ve dropped back,” he said.
“We missed an opportunity against Villa and we’ve got another opportunity on Boxing Day. We believe that on our day we can win any game.
“Results bring you belief, we need confidence and belief, the more results you get that will grow.
“We’d like to exploit any vulnerability they’ve got, it’s about ourselves and that’s what we’ve focused on, getting a foothold in the game.”
Striker Papiss Cisse will be assessed ahead of the clash as he struggles with a groin injury, but Newcastle still have nine other players ruled out.
Everton also have a depleted squad with the likes of Phil Jagielka (knee) and James McCarthy (groin) on the sidelines, but Roberto Martinez will hope the form of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley can end their stuttering run.
The Spaniard has not seen his side win since late November, but that has not stopped Lukaku scoring in his last eight club matches, while Barkley has scored or assisted 12 goals in 17 games this season.
Their form will be key to any success Everton might have, with defender Leighton Baines knowing they face a tougher test than teams travelling to St James’ Park earlier in the campaign.
“They have started to look like they are turning things around after a tough spell,” Baines told the club’s official website.
“But we will go up there and be prepared for a side whose confidence is growing. They have had some decent results lately.
“I haven’t worked under Steve McClaren in my career but I know he is a good manager. Newcastle had that difficult spell and I am sure he would have been frustrated with that. They are a tough club to manage but he has turned it round.
“But we go up there trying to make his job that little bit harder, and come away with a win.”
Key Opta stats:
– Newcastle United have won 12 Premier League home games against Everton – only against Aston Villa (14) have they won more at St James’ Park.
– Romelu Lukaku has had a hand in nine goals in six Premier League appearances against Newcastle (five goals, four assists).
– Newcastle have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League this season (12).
– Lukaku is the first Everton player to score in eight successive matches in all comps since Dave Hickson between Jan-Mar 1954.
– The last player to score in nine successive games (all comps) for Everton was Dixie Dean in October 1927.
– Newcastle are unbeaten in three Premier League games (W2 D1) – the first time they’ve managed to go three league games without defeat since February 2015 (W1 D2).