Saint-Maximin 'concerned' after appearing to criticise Newcastle team-mates before City trip

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Eddie Howe has revealed he will call a team meeting at Newcastle United to clarify comments made by Allan Saint-Maximin, who appeared to criticise his team-mates.

Saint-Maximin's interview with So Foot was published this week, in which the winger compared himself to Sadio Mane and said he would provide assists more regularly "the day when I have a player capable of finishing the actions".

The 25-year-old has only four assists this season despite creating 45 chances from open play – the eighth-most in the league and most outside the top six.

Callum Wilson, who has been out injured since December, remains Newcastle's top scorer with just six goals. Only Wolves (Raul Jimenez, also six) have had their leading marksman tally so few.

But Saint-Maximin did not intend to criticise his team-mates, Howe says, with both the player and coach seeking to ensure there was no "damage" to the team before a big game away at Manchester City.

"I saw the quotes, spoke with Allan," Howe said on Friday. "I think I need to make this clear that Allan's quotes didn't come across in the way he meant them to.

"He was concerned yesterday. We spoke, and in no way did he mean to damage the team and the unity that we've built. Of course, he said things in an interview, but, as I said, it wasn't in the context that he meant, although it happened.

"We'll be speaking with the squad and making sure there's no fallout from that, because unity has been our strength. It's vitally important that we keep that."

Regardless, Saint-Maximin and Newcastle will be boosted by the return of Wilson, who "looks in a good place and there's a good chance he'll be involved on Sunday".

Callum Wilson
Callum Wilson

England right-back Kieran Trippier is "slightly behind Callum" in his recovery but could still feature, while Howe is holding out hope for Fabian Schar to play despite missing training this week following an injury against Liverpool on Saturday.

Newcastle lost 1-0 to Liverpool and now face their title rivals City at the Etihad Stadium, where they have never won in the Premier League, losing their past 12 such matches.

Howe has been beaten in all 11 of his league games against City, including nine against Pep Guardiola – two competition records for one coach losing 100 per cent of their matches against any specific opponent or manager.

But City are coming off a painful Champions League defeat to Real Madrid, potentially making them vulnerable on Sunday, although Howe wants his team to improve, too.

"[The Champions League defeat] can work both ways," Howe said. "It can emotionally affect them in the positive or the negative.

"We will 100 per cent prepare for the best Manchester City, so we have to be the best Newcastle we can be. Looking back to last week, that was the disappointment for last week. We just missed the intensity in our work."

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