Mikel Merino is ready to put his body on the line for Newcastle United.
Merino made his first start in almost two months on Tuesday night.
The midfielder played his part as Rafa Benitez’s side fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against West Bromwich Albion.
Merino, signed from Borussia Dortmund on a permanent deal in October, returned from a back injury last weekend.
The 21-year-old, having missed the first three games of the club’s four-match losing run in the Premier League, was determined to be back on the pitch as soon as possible.
“My fitness is improving,” said Merino, who is preparing for Saturday’s televised game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
I’m not at 100% yet, but I’m here to help the team. It doesn’t matter if I’m a little bit injured or 100% good, I’ll still give everything I can on the pitch.Mikel Merino
“I’m not at 100% yet, but I’m here to help the team.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m a little bit injured or 100% good, I’ll still give everything I can on the pitch.
“Sometimes, things don’t go as you would want, but the important thing is that I feel better every time I play.
“I can feel my fitness coming back.
“I’m not at 100% yet, either with my back or physically with my fitness, but I’m improving and I’m happy with that.”
Newcastle needed to stop their run of defeats at The Hawthorns.
However, United looked to be heading for a fifth successive defeat – Benitez has never lost five games in a row as a manager in England – when Sam Field put West Brom 2-0 up in the 56th minute.
But a header from stand-in captain Ciaran Clark and an own goal saw the visitors claim their first point in more than a month.
And Merino was “proud” of the way the team fought back against West Brom.
“It was a great point for us,” said the Pamplona-born player.
“The way we started the match is not the way we want to do things, and when you go 2-0 behind, it is always hard to make a comeback.
“This team never gives up, though, and I think we did a great job in the second half.
“We have to take care that we don’t continue conceding last-minute goals at the end of the first half, but we have to keep going and keep fighting.
“We knew this league would be difficult, and we always knew we would win and lose games, but at the end, we got a draw that was good for us.
“It was very important to put an end to the run of defeats.
“I think another team with four straight losses might have put their heads down when they 2-0 behind.
“But we are fighters. We did not think like that. We knew we had to fight for every ball, every time in every minute.
“We did that, so we came away with a lot of pride.”
The second-half fightback has buoyed Benitez’s players ahead of their visit to Stamford Bridge, where they will be backed by 3,000 travelling fans.
“It is always a big confidence boost when you come back to get a result like that,” said Merino.
“We know it will be a really hard game at the weekend, and we will have to do a lot of working and a lot of running, but we’ll be going there with a positive result behind us, and looking to play positive football.
“We might have to make a few adjustments in defence, because we are letting in too many goals, but we showed some good signs to come back.
“We know what we have to do.
“I think the fight that we showed is the most important thing that a team can have.
“That kind of mentality – and the way we fought for each ball – is what you have to have if you want to achieve anything.
“We didn’t lose our mind, even though we were 2-0 behind.
“We kept fighting, and that’s the spirit that this team has.
“We have to keep going showing that character now.”
Merino – who had long been tracked by Benitez – quickly adjusted to Premier League football after arriving, initially on loan, from Dortmund.
The Spain Under-21 international also quickly won over fans with his vision, range of passing and willingness to put his foot in.
Merino said: “My mentality is that I always want to try to get on the ball, even if it is at a difficult stage of the game.
“That is the way I have always played – I always want to get more touches of the ball – and I always want to play hard and strong, with intensity.
“This is the mentality we have to have.”