NEWCASTLE United’s players will put their weary bodies on the line tonight as they face a bruised Manchester United at the Sports Direct Arena.
The Christmas and New Year fixture list has already taken its toll on a squad already depleted by injuries and suspensions.
However, manager Alan Pardew is confident his team, which has won just one of its last eight games, is ready for one more heave against Manchester United, held to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford by the Magpies in late November and still smarting from their 3-2 defeat at home to Blackburn at the weekend.
“We’re at home in front of almost 53,000 and we’ll be expected to put them in their place,” Pardew said.
“It’s not easy. They’re champions, they have a bigger squad and will come in with a much stronger side than they did against Blackburn, for sure.”
On the gruelling recent run of games, Pardew added: “Sometimes it feels uncomfortable to play so many games in a short space of time and it’s tough on the players.
“We put players at risk in this period – they’re going full pelt and they get injuries – but we now have an opportunity to put things right.”
However, Man United remain formidable opponents under Ferguson.
Asked if Sir Alex is the benchmark for all other managers, Pardew said: “He isn’t really, because he’s just ridiculous. Something like 50 trophies – you just can’t possibly imagine getting yourself into a position to win that many.
“But in the terms of the way he handles his club and the way he runs his club, he’s a bit more fortunate than a lot of us because he has a lot of power there and he’s earned that power. That’s what we all aim to do.”
Pardew was disappointed his team did not cause Liverpool more problems on Friday night.
“I didn’t really say too much after the game with Liverpool, as emotions were running high,” said Pardew.
“You have to be careful what you say, but generally I was disappointed at Liverpool. I thought we should have done better.
“After 60 minutes, we were really still in the game, but once that free-kick went in (from Craig Bellamy), I didn’t think the reaction was as good as I would have liked.”
And the challenge for Pardew now is to build the kind of momentum they enjoyed earlier in the season, when they went on an 11-game unbeaten run.
“We’ve played everybody and we’re seventh,” he said.
“We now have to prove that we can keep the position, or improve it.”
H Demba Ba is set to head to the African Nations Cup after tonight’s game against Manchester United.
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew had hoped to keep the striker on Tyneside until the middle of the month.
But the 26-year-old’s expected to link up with his Senegal team-mates later this week, meaning he will miss Saturday’s home FA Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers and the visit of Queens Park Rangers to the Sports Direct on January 15.
Pardew was also keen to delay Cheik Tiote’s departure to the Ivory Coast’s training camp in Abu Dhabi.
While Tiote could be involved against Blackburn, the midfielder fears he will have to head away on international duty this week, further depleting Pardew’s options for the third-round cup tie.
Meanwhile, a deal for striker Andy Carroll, sold to Liverpool a year ago for £35m, to return on loan is not on the agenda at the club.
Provisional Newcastle squad: Krul, Elliot, Harper, Simpson, R Taylor, Santon, Ferguson, Perch, Coloccini, Williamson, Kadar, Tiote, Cabaye, Obertan, Ben Arfa, Gutierrez, Sammy Ameobi, Gosling, Abeid, Vuckic, Ba, Best, Shola Ameobi.
Provisional Man Utd squad: De Gea, Lindegaard, Amos, Rafael, Ferdinand, Smalling, Evra, Jones, Fryers, Cole, Carrick, Valencia, Park, Gibson, Anderson, Nani, Giggs, Rooney, Welbeck, Berbatov, Hernandez, Diouf, Keane.