Newcastle United skipper Jamaal Lascelles knows picking up points in the next three games could prove “crucial” in the Magpies’ Premier League survival bid.
Lascelles returned to Rafa Benitez’s starting XI for the battling 1-1 draw at Goodison Park on Wednesday evening and is expected to keep his place at the heart of United’s backline when Wolves travel to St James’s Park on Sunday.
That game is followed by a trip to Huddersfield a week tomorrow and then Fulham come to the city three days before Christmas.
“The next three games now are massive. We have Wolves, Huddersfield and Fulham, so we really need to get our heads down and get as many points as possible,” said Lascelles.
“We know that this period could be so crucial come our points total towards the end of the season.
“We need to rest up and get ourselves ready for that as we know Wolves got a great result against Chelsea, and they’re a very good side.”
Lascelles was outshone somewhat by his two central defensive partners at Everton with Federico Fernandez putting in a man of the match performance and Fabian Schar further underlining his quality with a cultured display.
And with Florian Lejeune edging closer to a return and Ciaran Clark unlucky to drop out of the side, Lascelles knows the competition for places in his position is hotting up.
“There’s loads of competition in my area of the pitch,” said the 25-year-old.
“It’s so important that we have that because it pushes ourselves to train harder and try to keep your spot.
“The boys who have filled in have done fantastic. Schar has stepped in when I’ve not been playing and he’s got us some points on the board.
“That’s exactly what it’s about; it’s about our squad as a whole, and not just about the first XI.
“It’s a long season, we’ll have knocks now and again, so we need players to be ready for when they’re called upon. A few have stepped in recently and done fantastically well, so it’s more for the manager to think about selection wise.”
Lascelles has been lauded for the character he has shown in adversity during his time at United - it’s one of the main reasons Benitez made him captain.
And the defender knows characteristics that saw him rise to prominence under Benitez, run deep throughout the whole of this United squad.
“The character in this team is huge,” said Lascelles.
“There’s immense disappointment from what happened last weekend, but we just need to forget about that loss, think about how we could have stopped it happening, and at the same time look forward to the game.
“We’re working hard in training, looking at how Wolves play, and we’ll make sure we get more points on the board as soon as we can.
“The more points we can get over the next few weeks, the better it will be for our season as a whole.”
That character was on show as United bounced back from a humbling home defeat to West Ham, by going to big spending Everton and coming away with a fair share of the spoils.
“Overall it’s a massive result. A point away from home against a quality side,” he said.
“We had a gameplan going into the game, we stuck to it, and the big man Rondon did well to score again.
“They equalised but I thought it was open game where both sides had chances, and I thought we could have nicked it if I’m honest.
“It’s huge to have responded like we did. It just shows the character in the team. Last weekend we lost 3-0 at home, but we’ve bounced back.”
Takeover talk has swept Newcastle in recent days, but is it having an impact on the squad?
When asked, Lascelles said: “We’re just concentrating on our football, that’s it. We’re just focused on Wolves now.”