Newcastle United skipper Michael Owen is ready to return for next week's match at Hull City which he described as "a cup final" as his side battle to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
The England striker, 29, who has not played since damaging his ankle against Manchester City at the end of January, said Newcastle could repeat the escape act they performed last season but had to beat the teams around them in the relegation scrap.
"The game at Hull City on Saturday week is shaping up to be our cup final -- and the other games against teams around us, Stoke City, Portsmouth and Middlesbrough could also be crucial," Owen told Newcastle's website (www.nufc.premiumtv.co.uk).
"We've got some tough games coming up, yes, but we've got some very winnable games -- games which, if we do win them -- will put our biggest rivals in trouble."
Newcastle have slipped to 16th in the standings after winning once in their last 10 league matches and are just one point above the relegation zone.
Their plight has not been helped by manager Joe Kinnear being off work for two months with heart trouble, although Newcastle played well under caretaker coach Chris Hughton despite losing 2-1 at home to Manchester United on Wednesday.
Newcastle saved themselves from relegation last season by putting together a seven-match unbeaten run from mid-March.
Owen, who scored six goals in those games, said they had to do the same now to avoid losing their top-flight status for the first time in 17 years.
"There is no denying we are in the middle of the relegation scrap, but (we) have no doubt in our minds that we have enough quality to pull clear," he said.
"However, this is now the time when we have to stand up and be counted -- just like we did last year when we put together a very good seven-match unbeaten run.
"That sort of sequence is well within our capabilities, and while we have some tough home fixtures in a row -- which started against Manchester United and continues with Arsenal and Chelsea, it is the other games against teams around us that are going to be most significant."