Mikel Merino reveals what he LOVES about playing for Newcastle
Mikel Merino loves playing for Newcastle United '“ as the team plays with heart.
Rafa Benitez’s side came from behind to draw with Liverpool at the weekend.
A Joselu goal cancelled out Philippe Coutinho’s stunning opening strike at St James’s Park.
And Merino, on a season-long loan from Borussia Dortmund, believes the comeback underlined the character that Benitez has in his dressing room.
“This means that this team has heart – a really good mentality – and it doesn’t matter if we’re one down or one up, we have to keep fighting,” said the midfielder.
“We have believed about our possibilities. It doesn’t matter if we are losing by one, we keep fighting, and in the end we have our important point – our goal – and this is how this team works.
“We have to keep going like this, though.”
Merino – who played at the 81,000-capacity Westfalenstadion last season – also loves the backing he and his team-mates get at St James’s Park.
“The crowd was incredible,” said the 21-year-old.
“I’m used to it, so I’m not surprised, because every time we play at home the crowd is at an incredible level.
“It helps us a lot, and the team’s really, really happy about that. What we want to do is to keep the mood and to keep the crowd going like this.”
Liverpool dominated the first half against Newcastle.
“It was a tough game and everyone can see how good this team (Liverpool) is,” said Merino, who has linked up with Spain’s Under-21 squad.
“I think we’ve done a great, great effort. All the match we were running. It was incredible how we run and work. We achieved an important point against a great team.
“We are happy about that but we know we need to keep working and doing what we are doing.
“We will play better against other teams, but we had to play like this against a great team.”
On Liverpool, he added: “They press really, really high, they press so fast and they have small players who are always near you who are so fast.
“If you don’t have a good day, and you don’t think quick enough and pass it, then they will steal the ball, because they press everybody at once.
“This is one of their best strengths, because they can also run and finish and are really good, but I think we managed this type of situation well and achieved an important point.”
Merino is preparing for Spain’s European Under-21 Championship qualifier against Slovakia on October 10.
“Each time I go away with the national team I want to play good,” said the Pamplona-born player. “I want to help my national team and to help them win.
“It’s a different style of football, but I have the same mentality: work hard and help my team. I’ll then come back and go again with Newcastle.”
Meanwhile, United winger Matt Ritchie has been ruled out of Scotland’s World Cup Qualifiers against Slovakia and Slovenia with a minor injury.