Break has helped us physically and mentally, says Martin
Martin Dúbravka says the winter break has reinvigorated Newcastle United both physically and mentally as they prepare for their return to Premier League action at Arsenal this weekend.
The Magpies head to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday (4:30pm kick-off) after an 11-day hiatus following the 3-2 FA Cup fourth round replay victory at Oxford United.
Goalkeeper Dúbravka and his teammates were afforded some time off after a punishing winter schedule, which saw them play 15 games in the space of two months, but they returned to United’s Benton training centre on Tuesday to get set for the clash with the Gunners.
And the 31-year-old says the break has given Steve Bruce’s charges time to recharge ahead of the end-of-season run-in as they look to gain a foothold in the top half of the table.
“We have had so many games in a row so these few days off definitely helped us to heal some small injuries, and hopefully we are ready for the next games now,” Dúbravka told nufc.co.uk.
“When you are playing in different leagues (in Europe) you get a couple of weeks off, or a couple of days – I’ve had that before as well, so I know how helpful this can be.
“I’m glad that they decided to give us some days off because especially when you play against top teams at Christmas time, you are tired. If you don’t get a good result, it’s hard mentally as well, so it was perfect timing.
“Football is not only a physical thing – also mentally, it’s very difficult sometimes, especially when you don’t get a result.”
The FA Cup win at the Kassam Stadium last time out made sure of Newcastle’s place in the fifth round for the first time in 13 years, while Bruce’s side are currently just four points shy of a place in the Premier League’s top eight.
Dúbravka believes beating Oxford provided a timely boost for United as the enter the campaign’s final stage with plenty still at stake.
“It was perfect because obviously we needed that victory, and after that we wanted to enjoy that time (off),” he said. “It was perfect to win the last game, and make sure we could have a good mood in the holiday – and obviously, coming back from the holiday in the same mood was perfect too.
“Now we are in a good position. I’m glad that we went through in the cup game – it was very important for us, for everyone, and for the fans as well. Now we have something to celebrate and to look forward to.
“But we have to be focussed. Other games are coming and we need to be focussed and ready for it. We know what we are playing for.”
The Slovakian stopper is likely to be involved at Arsenal this weekend, just over two years on from his initial arrival at St. James’ Park on loan from Sparta Prague.
In that time Dúbravka – who penned a new six-year deal with the Magpies earlier this season – has not missed a Premier League game.
And he reckons United are capable of completing a North London double, after their away win at Tottenham Hotspur earlier back in August.
“It’s going to be a big game. I’ve said many times in previous interviews that you can win against these big teams,” he added.
“You have to be at 100 per cent in every position, but you can still win these games – and that’s what we will be trying to do.”
"I’m glad that they decided to give us some days off because especially when you play against top teams at Christmas time, you are tired. If you don’t get a good result, it’s hard mentally as well, so it was perfect timing."