Monday 19 March 2018

Pardew sure Champions League spot beyond Toon

NEWCASTLE boss Alan Pardew is refusing to contemplate challenging for a Champions League spot despite closing the gap on fourth-placed Tottenham to five points after a 3-1 win at West Bromwich Albion.

The Magpies moved level on 50 points with Chelsea in the Premier League after first-half goals from Papiss Cisse (two) and man-of-the-match Hatem Ben Arfa disposed of the Baggies at the Hawthorns.

Pardew believes that is a "phenomenal" achievement with just eight games left and Newcastle showing signs of mounting a strong finish to the campaign.

But he feels breaking into the top four will be beyond them this season.

He said: "I didn't think we'd be level with Chelsea with eight games to go. Maybe it might happen in the first 10 games if you get a fantastic start, which is what we did.

"To have the same points at Chelsea at this stage is phenomenal and you have to take your hats off to the players. But are we Champions League contenders? I don't think so. I don't think we've got the depth of squad to challenge for that."

Pardew will be without skipper and key defender Fabricio Coloccini for up to three games, including next weekend's clash with Liverpool, after he suffered a hamstring injury.


He said: "Fabricio is so important to us and to lose him for the next two or three games will hurt us."

But Pardew can take encouragement from the performance of Ben Arfa, who set up Cisse's double as well as scoring himself, and feels he is worth a place in the France squad.

Pardew said: "There are not many players who can do what he can do, and it might be a nice wild card for France to have him in the squad.

"He really has knuckled down and there is a much more controlled person in his manner and the way he is around the training ground.

"I can say that publicly so it registers with the French manager.

"We've not had one issue with him. In the past in France, there was some reputation that he was an enfant terrible -- but not here."

West Brom boss Roy Hodgson's misery was compounded by the news that midfielder James Morrison is likely to miss the remainder of the season with knee ligament damage.

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