Newcastle United’s Matt Ritchie fires a warning to Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Liverpool’s exciting attackers

Matt Ritchie is relishing his new lease of life at Newcastle United having been transformed into a wing-back.
Matt Ritchie is relishing his switch to wing-back at Newcastle UnitedMatt Ritchie is relishing his switch to wing-back at Newcastle United
Matt Ritchie is relishing his switch to wing-back at Newcastle United

And the 29-year-old has warned the likes of Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino that he feels well-equipped to deal with their strengths as they prepare to visit St James’s Park on Saturday evening.

The switch to wing-back has been a real change for Ritchie, who has spent the majority of his career in a more attack-minded role.

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But with Newcastle’s style of play undergoing some change following promotion to the Premier League two seasons’ ago, the former Bournemouth ace believes both he and the side are better-served by the positional switch.

“I’m really enjoying it ,” he said of his stint at wing-back.

“We’ve spent quite a lot of time playing with a front three, with Ronny, Miguel and Ayo, and if you’re playing as a wide player in that formation, you have to be a real threat in behind.

“My strength isn’t really running behind.

“Don’t get me wrong, if we were a total football team it would be different, and it was different in the Championship because we had a lot of the ball.

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“But with the team we have now in the Premier League, we’re a bit more counter-attacking. I enjoy playing wing-back – I get a lot more of the ball than I did higher up the pitch.”

For a player in the attacking mould, a switch to wing-back could prove tasking given the extra defensive responsibilities placed upon them.

But Ritchie admits he has enjoyed the defensive side of the new role and - after a it of a learning curve - feels he is well-placed to deal with the attacking talents of the Premier League.

And that should serve as a warning to the likes of Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mane - who will have to overcome a revitalised Ritchie if they want to fire Liverpool to victory on Saturday.

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“I thoroughly enjoy the defensive side too,” added the Newcastle man.

“I’ve played against some very good wingers now. I’ve learned on the job a bit defensively, and if you ask the gaffer here or Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, they’d probably never have said that I could defend.

“I’ve always liked to press and enjoyed regaining the ball, but one-on-one defending has never really been part of my make-up.

“But I’ve really relished and enjoyed learning it, and I feel as though I’m accomplished now in that part of my game.

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“I feel confident coming up against not only high-skilled players, but also fast players. I feel as though I know how to deal with it.”