Newcastle Club Focus – Heavy loss at Wigan sees final Champions League spot up for grabs

Newcastle’s six match-winning run came to an abrupt halt with a 4-0 loss to relegation haunted Wigan Athletic. It was a shock defeat for the Magpies, which is likely to put a serious dent in their claim for a Champions League spot. For whatever reason Alan Pardew’s side failed to turn up for the first 45 minutes and went into the interval four goals behind. To further compound their woes results from their rivals could not have been much worse. The teams immediately below them, Tottenham and Chelsea, both enjoyed comprehensive wins to demote Newcastle to fifth place.

Going into the game the Magpies would have done well not to underestimate a Wigan side that has been playing above itself with wins over Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal in recent weeks. Whether complacency was a factor going into the game only the players will know but Pardew normally has his side well prepared for every opponent. It is not the first time this season Newcastle have been on the receiving end of a heavy defeat with Norwich, Fulham, Tottenham and now Wigan all scoring four or more goals. As a consequence, the Tynesiders have a much worse goals difference than the teams around them, despite a healthy goals-for column.

A key part of Newcastle’s recent purple patch has been their defence, which had kept five clean sheets in their winning run. The usual backline took the field against Wigan but they appeared to play like a group of strangers. They were unable to cope with the home side’s clever passing game which created numerous chances for their attacking players. Pardew even switched formation midway through the first half to match Wigan 3-4-3 formation but to little avail.

The manager has called on his side to respond to their hapless showing in their next game against Chelsea. With the Magpies due to travel south to face Chelsea on Wednesday, there is a quick turnaround to get their campaign back on track. Another defeat against the Blues would just about kill off any Champions League hopes. After the Wigan game, Pardew told the BBC: That’s as good a team as we’ve faced in last seven or eight games. We just didn’t match their intensity. Forget shape, systems and so on, intensity is everything in football. At Chelsea, we will show the intensity we’re used to showing and give them a far stronger game.

Going into the midweek clash there is just one point separating the two teams on the ladder. Chelsea have been on a fine run of form of late under Roberto Di Matteo and have lost only one game under the Italian’s stewardship. With an FA Cup final at the weekend and a Champions League final on the horizon, there are likely to be a few changes to the Blues’ usual starting line-up. Chelsea still boast one of the strongest squads in the Premier League however, and Newcastle should not treat them lightly.

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