Newcastle boss Eddie Howe is confident Loris Karius is ready to step into the heat of Carabao Cup final battle in the wake of Nick Pope’s heartache.
Pope was dismissed for handling outside his area during Saturday’s 2-0 Premier League defeat by Liverpool and is suspended for next Sunday’s clash with Manchester United at Wembley as a result.
German Karius, who joined the Magpies on a short-term contract – which has since been extended to the end of the season – in September is yet to make his debut for the club, but seems certain to do just that in the biggest game in the club’s recent history.
Asked about the 29-year-old’s readiness to do so, head coach Howe said: “That was the reason for taking a player of his profile. He has experience of the big games, so I’ve got no doubt or issue over his ability to step in.”
Karius and Mark Gillespie are Howe’s two remaining options for Wembley with Martin Dubravka, who took over from Pope, having played in the competition already this season during his temporary switch to United while Karl Darlow is on loan at Hull.
Howe said: “Nick’s very disappointed, understandably, as we are for him. He’s been magnificent this season for us and he doesn’t deserve to miss the game, but it is what it is and we’ll see what our options are.
“We have Loris and Mark, who have trained really well this season and been part of the goalkeeping team all season. They’re both fit and ready to play.”
Karius has not made a competitive appearance since Union Berlin’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw with Hoffenheim in February 2021, and endured a personal nightmare in Liverpool’s 3-1 Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid in 2018.
However, asked about his mentality, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp said: “I have no doubt about that. He’s a great goalie, that’s why Newcastle signed him.”
Pope was dismissed after misjudging Alisson Becker’s clearance and handling in his attempt to prevent Mohamed Salah from reaching the ball, but by that point a Magpies defence which had previously conceded only 13 goals in 22 league games had been breached twice by balls over the top to allow first Darwin Nunez and then Cody Gakpo to score.
Allan Saint-Maximin and Dan Burn both hit the bar as the 10 men rallied, but there was no way back.
Howe said: “Yes, it’s hit his arm. Is it a red card? I’m of the view I think that was harsh, personally. I think the referee could have easily given a yellow card in that situation.”
Liverpool’s second win in a week left them six points behind the fourth-placed Magpies with a game in hand, but a delighted Klopp, who revealed Nunez suffered a shoulder injury which is being assessed, called for greater consistency.
Asked how big the victory was, he said: “Massive, massive, massive, massive.
“I don’t think we are in a position where we can have a big mouth and say, ‘Now we are here’ and go again. It’s obvious that we are in a better place than we were a couple of weeks ago, but there is still space for improvement and we have to show consistency.
“Next game Real Madrid, different competition, nothing to do with the game today. We have to recover and then go for that and after that, it’s Crystal Palace.”