ALAN Pardew has ordered “humbled” Newcastle United to shore up their eroding confidence tomorrow by qualifying for the knockout stages of the Europa League.
Victory at home to Maritimo will do that, as will a draw if Group G rivals Brugge cannot beat Bordeaux.
Extending their European campaign beyond Christmas would be important in its own right, but for a team without a win in four matches the benefits would extend further.
“We’ve been humbled a little bit,” said manager Pardew, whose side followed consecutive away draws with back-to-back home defeats in their last two Premier League games.
“When you’ve been humbled, there’s only one way to respond. Tomorrow and on Sunday I expect my team to respond.”
Newcastle’s Premier League inconsistency has been in part caused by the greater demands on them this season.
The Magpies have already played 19 matches, five more than neighbours Sunderland and with a great deal more traveling to boot.
The extra demands have exposed a squad which needed greater reinforcement in the summer.
However, victory tomorrow will allow Pardew to put the competition on the backburner until February, even with one game still to play in Bordeaux next month.
“I think I’ve worked out this Europa League – I would rather play our Premier League games on a Thursday and the Europa League games on a Sunday, it might be easier!” joked Pardew, who was speaking at a St James’ event to promote Show Racism the Red Card.
“We all know if we win against Maritimo, a bit of the feel-good factor comes back to us with qualification.
“Like all teams, I don’t care how good you are, you can suffer with your confidence and we don’t want to go down that road.
“There isn’t much of a gap between 12th and where we want to be but there isn’t much of a gap between 12th and the bottom, either.
“We have to focus on what’s important, which is the next three points.”