CHEICK Tiote is back to his best at Newcastle United – and ready to tackle the club’s festive programme.
The midfielder has been an influential figure for Alan Pardew’s men over the past two months.
And combative Tiote is again enjoying his football, having admitted he struggled for form during last season’s Premier League relegation battle.
While the 27-year-old, set to go to next summer’s World Cup with Ivory Coast, is hopeful the Magpies can maintain their challenge at the top end of the division, he doesn’t want to look beyond the next game.
Newcastle take on relegation-threatened Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday looking to cement their place in the top six.
“Last season was hard for everyone,” Tiote said. “This season, we are playing much better.
“I’m enjoying my football. It’s important for me to play at this level and help the team. I will try hard to stay at the same level. It’s very important for me, because every player wants to play well.
“Last season was a very bad season for us, but there is a big difference between last season and this season. This season we are happy. The players are playing well, and the team is as well.”
Tiote – who has been disciplined without the ball and diligent in possession this season – will have midfield partner Yohan Cabaye back alongside him against Palace. Cabaye is again available after serving a one-game suspension.
And the pair – who helped Newcastle win beat Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Tynesiders’ last away outing – will again be targeting three points.
“We try to win every game,” said Tiote. “We don’t think about the top four or top six. We just try to win games – that is the most important thing.”
Newcastle were held to a 1-1 home draw by Southampton last weekend.
Tiote said: “We had chances to win the game, so we’re a little bit disappointed.
“It was an important game for us. We played against a top team. But we are still in a good position.”