ALAN Pardew has sent an SOS to his Newcastle United team – Salvage Our Season!
Pardew’s side take on Metalist Kharkiv in the Ukraine tonight (6pm kick-off) looking to qualify for the last 16 of the Europa League.
Top-flight survival and an extended run in Europe are Pardew’s twin goals.
He feels if the Tynesiders, held to a home 0-0 draw by Metalist last week, can get through to the next stage, the Europa League will be there for the taking.
“Picking up the remnants of injuries and suspensions, it’s about salvaging this season as best we can,” Pardew said. “The best we can finish in the Premier League is a top-10 finish – that’s nowhere near the fifth we achieved last year.
“We can’t really improve in that area. But we’re in a big competition – we earned the right to be in it. We have a chance in this.
“This tie is important. Once you get beyond this tie, the competition comes to life, as it did last year.
“We might be entering it with our strongest team. It’s a key game. If we were to lose, we’d have to accept that. Maybe, with (Hatem) Ben Arfa’s return, and how we sit at the moment, that would be disappointing.”
Pardew named a strong team in the first leg, which saw Papiss Cisse have two goals chalked off for offside.
There will be at least one change tonight – Davide Santon was left behind with a “sore ankle” – but Pardew says he will be “ambitious” in his team selection. “Sometimes you have to be ambitious in a competition like this – my team will have ambition in it,” he added.
Pardew says the decision to leave Ben Arfa – who has been recovering from a hamstring injury in his native France – on Tyneside was a “no-brainer”. Ben Arfa is likely to make his comeback at Swansea on March 2.
“He has only been with us for two days from Clairefontaine, who have put him in a fantastic physical condition for us,” said Pardew.
“It was a no-brainer really. We are very pleased with their contribution, and we thank them for that.
“It underlines the relationship we have in France, to have that faith to let Hatem do his recovery there. That’s worked out well.
“He looks short of match-fitness, but we hope to get him up to speed perhaps for the next round, if we make it.
“Sunday (against Southampton) might be too early for him too, but certainly Swansea.
“I would be looking for him to have some sort of cameo role from the bench if he progresses well.”