ALAN Pardew has challenged his Newcastle team to make a statement about the destiny of their season as they attempt to right two horrific wrongs.
The Magpies face in-from Liverpool at St James’ Park on Saturday and then head to arch-rivals Sunderland eight days later in a pair of fixtures which could provide a telling indication of their current state of health.
Six months ago, the same two clubs provided Pardew’s men with the rudest of awakenings when the Black Cats made the short trip to Tyneside and against all the odds, left with a famous 3-0 victory a fortnight before the Reds doubled the dose in more than once sense in a 6-0 rout.
However, Pardew is hoping his players can gain a measure of revenge for both debacles and prove that they are far better than they appeared to be on either of those days.
He said: “You hope so. I’d like to think it puts fire in your belly because that’s what it should do.
“I have certainly got fire in my belly to get positive results and make sure they are distant memories.”
If Newcastle are to achieve the first leg of their aim, they will have to find a way to shackle Liverpool front two Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
Suarez was suspended for last season’s encounter, in which Sturridge scored twice, but the pair have formed a formidable partnership at the start of the new campaign, prompting manager Brendan Rodgers to suggest there are not many better double-acts around.
It is a view with which Pardew agrees whole-heartedly.
He said: “They carry a threat in front of you and in behind, which is the best threat you can have.
“If you defend deep against them, they pick it up short and particularly Suarez starts running at you and causes you all sorts of problems, yet if you play a high line, then Sturridge’s pace is a problem in behind.
“It’s that mixture that is probably why they are having such success. It gives a back four a problem.
“But taking all of that aside, they are also great players and that makes it doubly difficult.”
Fabricio Coloccini’s absence through injury may make the process of containing the Reds’ SAS strike-force that much more difficult, although Pardew is hoping that his defenders will be up to the task.
In addition, he is planning to cause the visitors a few problems of their own with Loic Remy in top form and Papiss Cisse having return to goalscoring form in Senegal’s 3-1 World Cup qualifier defeat by Cheick Tiote’s Ivory Coast in midweek.
Pardew said: “There will be two different formations on the pitch and that will be important.
“Liverpool will want to dictate with their formation and the most important thing for us is that we dictate.
“Our offensive players, if they can get Liverpool on the back foot, then we can have some success.
“Loic has been called into the French squad and he has had a little taster there, so it’s been a great start to the season for him, and that’s been on his performances - and strong performances - for us.
“Not only his goals, but his all-round performance has been solid, so he has been a big player for us so far.”
Saturday’s game will be played against the back-drop of a march organised by Time 4 Change, an umbrella group of fans, to protest against owner Mike Ashley’s continued tenure.
However, Pardew, who was not adding to his own comments about Ashley’s ownership in a television interview last weekend, insisted he and the players could not allow themselves to be distracted by that.
He said: “We just want to concentrate on the game, that’s what we want to do. That’s all I can focus on and that’s what, internally, we will do.”