FABRICIO Coloccini has warned his Newcastle United team-mates that that it would be a mistake to start thinking about a return to Europe.
And the club captain says they must not look beyond the next game in a month which he feels could make or break their season.
Newcastle ended the weekend sixth in the Premier League, but Coloccini feels talk of a return to the Europa League – or Champions League qualification – is premature given the demanding run of Christmas and New Year fixtures ahead of Newcastle.
“This month is going to be important,” Coloccini said.
“We have many games, and I think this month is going to make a difference. We have to be clever and win points.”
While Coloccini would love to again play in Europe – the Argentina international was involved in the club’s run to the quarter-finals of the Europa League last season – he has cautioned against looking beyond Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
“It’s our dream as well (as the fans’), but we don’t have to think about it,” added the 31-year-old. “I think we have to play every game and get points.
“We try to play the same way and have the same kind of performances that we’ve had in the last few games. That’s the most important thing.
“If we start thinking about Europa League or Champions League, I think it’s going to be a big mistake.”
Southampton, despite being depleted by injury, worked hard to deny their hosts space, but ineffectively at times as the Magpies broke at pace to threaten repeatedly.
Indeed, Newcastle forced three corners in the first five minutes with Mathieu Debuchy volleying just wide from the last of them after it was played out to him on the edge of the box by Vurnon Anita.
Anita had been handed the task of filling the boots of the suspended Yohan Cabaye, although with Moussa Sissoko a willing forward runner and Cheick Tiote snapping into tackles once again, Pardew’s men enjoyed the better of the first half.
They should have gone ahead on 12 minutes when Shola Ameobi chased down Debuchy’s ball over the top and squared for Gouffran to beat goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga to his cross.
The Frenchman selflessly picked out compatriot Remy to hand him a glorious opportunity to end his three-game wait for a goal, but his side-footed effort was cleared off the line by vigilant defender Calum Chambers.
Southampton gradually worked their way into the game, but with Jack Cork sitting deep in central midfield, their main supply lines came from full-backs Chambers and Luke Shaw.
James Ward-Prowse curled a 16th-minute effort into Tim Krul’s midriff, but the traffic was largely in the opposite direction, and that was made to tell with 28 minutes played.
Debuchy’s deep free-kick was headed down by central defender Mike Williamson and as the Saints defence slept, Gouffran (pictured, below) pounced to go around Gazzaniga and roll the ball into the empty net.
Rickie Lambert blazed a 40th-minute effort across the face of goal from a narrow angle, and Anita jinked his way into the Southampton penalty area seconds later, but failed to pick out a black and white short with the visitors in disarray.
Mauricio Pochettino made a double change at the break, replacing midfielder Ward-Prowse and striker Pablo Osvaldo with Morgan Schneiderlin and Lallana, and Saints immediately had a better balance.
Lallana’s arrival gave Lambert a new lease of life, although the home side continued to threaten when they were in possession with Remy testing Gazzaniga from long distance with 55 minutes played.
The same man saw a speculative strike blocked by Chambers two minutes later and Ameobi headed wide from the resulting corner, but it was the visitors who were building up a head of steam.
Anita did superbly to intercept Lallana’s pull-back after he had been allowed to run from halfway, and Krul was hugely relieved to see Davis’s 64th-minute shot come back off the post.
But the respite was fleeting and Southampton got their reward with 25 minutes remaining when Lallana found Rodriguez and he exchanged passes with Davis before firing coolly past Krul.
The Dutchman came to the rescue six minutes later after Rodriguez had bundled a corner towards goal, and opposite number Gazzaniga had his own let-off within seconds when he served the ball up to Remy inside the box, but saw the unmarked striker fire wastefully wide.
Ben Arfa entered the fray with 17 minutes remaining and almost caught Gazzaniga out with a near-post free-kick, but there was no splitting the two sides, and tempers became frayed between the two benches after Schneiderlin’s late challenge on Massadio Haidara.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew moved to play down the touchline scuffle which saw Magpie goalkeeping coach Andy Woodman and his Southampton counterpart Toni Jimenez sent to the stands and facing potential FA sanctions.
“It was panto season,” Pardew said. “There was a big dame and a bloke in an emu outfit and everything, but it was nothing, really.
“Both benches want to win. There was a bit of frustration. The battle goes on on the pitch, not off it. That’s what you’ve got to focus on. We were a bit frustrated with a few of the offsides, and it all built up a little bit. Maybe it could have been calmed down a bit better.”
The FA will now examine what happened after looking at referee Mike Jones’s report. Jones ended with a bloody nose after being caught accidentally by Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko.
Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon (Haidara 78), Sissoko, Anita, Tiote, Gouffran (Ben Arfa 73), Shola Ameobi (Cisse 61), Remy. Subs not used: Yanga-Mbiwa, Elliot, Obertan, Sammy Ameobi. Booked: Tiote. Goals: Gouffran 27.
Southampton: Gazzaniga, Chambers, Lovren, Hooiveld, Shaw, Cork, Ward-Prowse (Schneiderlin 46), Steven Davis, Osvaldo (Lallana 46), Rodriguez (Gallagher 90), Lambert. Subs not used: Yoshida, Fonte, Ramirez, Cropper. Booked: Cork, Schneiderlin. Goals: Rodriguez 65.
Att: 49,164. Ref: Mike Jones (Cheshire).