Each game a cup final for Pardew
Alan Pardew will adopt a cup final mentality as he attempts to guide Newcastle out of relegation trouble.
The Magpies won for the first time in seven attempts in all competitions, and just the third in 15 in the league, when they survived a second-half fightback at fellow strugglers Aston Villa on Tuesday to ease themselves four points clear of the drop zone.
However, their situation remains parlous and they entertain European champions Chelsea tomorrow knowing that, with Tottenham waiting in the wings next weekend and the sides below them showing signs of life, that advantage could evaporate quickly.
Newcastle will tackle the Blues with renewed optimism, but Pardew will set his players no targets other than the obvious one.
He said: “Obviously, there is one massive target which we mustn’t lose focus on, and that’s to stay in the Premier League.
“We are just going from game to game with a cup final mentality, and we will take that into Chelsea.”
Tuesday’s 2-1 victory was just what Pardew needed after receiving the financial backing of owner Mike Ashley to revitalise a squad riven by the departure of leading scorer Demba Ba, Cheick Tiote’s presence at the African Nations Cup with Ivory Coast and an injury crisis which had exposed a worrying lack of depth.
The Magpies will hope the rebuilding work, some of which they now freely admit should have been done last summer, will help to redress the balance, and the early contributions of full-back Mathieu Debuchy and midfielder Moussa Sissoko in particular have helped to dispel some of the gloom at St James’ Park.
However, while the new boys have made encouraging starts to life on Tyneside, the renaissance of a more established player has been equally pleasing for Pardew.
Twelve months ago, striker Papiss Cisse exploded onto the Premier League scene with 13 goals in his first 14 appearances after completing a January move from Freiburg.
He has looked a shadow of that player for much of the current campaign, with Pardew citing Yohan Cabaye’s lengthy injury absence as a significant factor, but the way he moved into space to accept Sissoko’s pass and then confidently beat Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan suggested to his manager that he is finally back on track.
Pardew said: “When you are making runs and don’t get any reward, there’s a tendency to stop making them.
“He was getting a bit frustrated and was forcing and being offside, when he was timing his runs so much better last year.
“Then suddenly he got his goal and his runs now look on time and he looks a different prospect. Chelsea will have to be on their guard against him.”
Rafael Benitez’s men will arrive on Tyneside still smarting from their failure to defend a 2-0 lead at struggling Reading, the latest mishap in an indifferent run of form.
Pardew added: “Just recently, a little bit of pressure has fallen their way because of a few draws when they have actually looked like they were going to win the game.
“There’s a slight question mark, for them even, of getting over the line. Sometimes you play really well but you can’t get over the line and get the win, and that’s probably where they are.
“That’s what they will be searching for against us, so I am hoping we can stay in the game and they get edgy towards the end and hopefully we can see a victory out.”