Laurent Robert has undermined his team’s confidence on the eve of their UEFA Cup tie with Sporting, by suggesting that Newcastle have deteriorated as a team in the last 12 months.

“Are we better this year than last year? No, I don’t think so. Are we the same? No, probably worse,” he said.

“We have not played well in the last three games. We’ve been very, very bad. We were awful against Aston Villa and we lost at Tottenham.

“It is difficult to explain why we are playing so badly, but we have to get out of it quickly.”

Newcastleremain in contention in two competitions, with a Uefa Cup quarter-final second leg at Sporting Lisbon tonight and a FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United on Sunday.

Last year they were knocked out of the UEFA Cup by Marseilles at the semi-final stage.

“Sporting are not as good as Marseille, they do not play such good football, but like last year we are getting injuries and suspensions at the wrong time,” he added.

“It has been a difficult season, but it can end with a trophy and everyone will be happy.”

“It is difficult for me at the moment,” he admitted.

“In the last three games I have been taken off after 55 or 60 minutes and I don’t like that, and I don’t like it when the team plays bad football.

“I have not been happy when I have been brought off, I think everyone has seen that. It is very depressing.

“There is no communication and the manager does not speak to me face-to-face to tell me why he keeps taking me off. He does not tell me when I am playing well and he does not tell me when I am playing badly, and neither does his staff.

“I read that he does not feel that I do enough, but I feel like I have proved myself to him last month. You will have to ask him what he means by that.”