ALAN Pardew is targeting back-to-back Newcastle United wins on what could prove a defining week of the club’s season, writes MILES STARFORTH.
Newcastle face Metalist Kharkiv and Southampton in the space of four days.
Pardew, conscious of the the need for Premier League points, is reluctant to field his strongest starting XI in the Ukraine on Thursday because of the toll the European game will take on his players.
But the club’s manager still believes United can progress to the last 16 of the Europa League – and claim a domestic win on Sunday.
Pardew fielded a full-strength side in last week’s first-leg against Metalist – the game ended goalless – but he seems certain to make changes for the return match.
There will be some tough decisions for Pardew and his coaching staff.
“We have to sit down and make sure we get that right,” Pardew said.
“Southampton is a huge game for us, and so is the second leg of this game. We’re going to have to call that right.
“We know there’s a tail-off of energy from Thursday to Sunday, so we’re going to have to make sure the team’s good enough to get us what we want out there, and good enough to beat Southampton. There’s a lot to think about.”
Pardew and his players felt they should have beaten Kharkiv at St James’s Park.
While Metalist enjoyed decent spells of possession, Pardew – who was “incensed” that two Papiss Demba Cisse goals were disallowed – was buoyed by his team’s performance.
He was impressed by the impact Shola Ameobi and Sylvain Marveaux made after coming off the bench.
“They’ve got to beat us to win,” he added.
“If we play anything like we did, it’ll be difficult for them. We pulled them around and asked them a lot of different questions – there were a lot of good things about us.
“There were nice introductions from the bench – Shola and Marveaux made a difference – and that bodes well for the coming games.
“They players were disappointed – it was tough to take – but I’m so pleased with the performance.
“It was a top performance against a top team – we’ll take that away from the game, if nothing else.”