After a fantastic and somewhat surprising start to the Premier League supposed expert pundits within the game had been expecting the wheels to eventually fall off Newcastle United’s season.
Having hovered around the dizzy heights of the Champions League qualification places for the early parts of the campaign those expectations appeared to be turning to reality when the Magpies took just 4 points from a possible 18 throughout the December period.
However, Alan Pardew’s men have hit back since the turn of the year and a resurgence in form has seen the Toon win 4 of their last 5 league games, with the only hiccup coming in an astonishing 5-2 defeat to Fulham at Craven Cottage in a game which they led 1-0 at half-time.
Newcastle now find themselves in 5th place and trail Chelsea in 4th by just 1 point. With 14 games remaining is it possible for the Toon to maintain their current run of form and qualify for the Champions League next season? Here are 3 reasons why they could.
While the two Manchester clubs appear to be fighting it out to lift the Premier League trophy and Tottenham being the only other club with a realistic opportunity to upset the odds; Chelsea, Newcastle, Arsenal and Liverpool will be going head-to-head in a battle for a 4th place finish/final Champions League qualifying spot.
The four clubs are currently separated by 4 points and although Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are considered to have stronger squads than Newcastle, neither have performed consistently throughout the season dropping points on a regular basis in games they wern’t expected to. None of the clubs have showed any intent of grabbing 4th place by the scruff of the neck and with each team having to play one-another from now until the end of the season the race for Champions League qualification is wide open.
Newcastle’s most recent blip came at the hands of Brighton where the Magpies fell to a 1-0 FA Cup loss, just one week on from the humiliating defeat at Fulham. However, the FA Cup exit could work in Pardew’s favour. With no other cup competitions to concentrate on the Toon boss can focus all his efforts on the Premier League, and capturing that 4th Champions League spot. Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool on the other hand are still competing in two cups apiece.
While Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool all remain in the 5th Round of the FA Cup, the two London clubs have the next round of Champions League games to plan for, and Liverpool have a Carling Cup Final to look forward to. Pardew will be hoping each cup competition can be something of a distraction to his fellow 4th place challengers.
The third and final reason has to be the return of Newcastle’s top goalscorer Demba Ba. The Senegalese striker recently rejoined his teammates after his country’s surprise exit from the African Cup Of Nations. Ba had notched an impressive 15 goals in the first half of the Premier League season before having to leave for international duty but his earlier than expected return is to the benefit of the North-East side.
Ba proved his true value to the Magpies on Sunday when he scored on his return in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at the Sports Direct Arena. Alan Pardew also added some extra firepower to Newcastle’s front-line in the January transfer window by signing Ba’s fellow countryman, Papiss Demba Cisse. Having paid in the region of £10m to Bundesliga outfit Freiburg for Cisse’s signature, the Senegalese striker instantly repaid the Toon boss by bagging the winner in his first game against Villa after coming on as a substitute.
If Ba can stay fit and continue to find the net whilst forming a threatening strike partnership with his compatriot Cisse then achieving a Champions League qualifying place this season is a strong possibility for Newcastle United.
For more rumour, views and opinion follow me on Twitter at grez10
Click here to comment on this articleor
Give us feedback on your Football Transfer Tavern experience