Newcastle Club Focus – Victory at Swansea rekindles Champions League aspirations

Newcastle made it four wins from four games with a smash and grab victory against Swansea City. Seeing very little of the ball against the Swans made little difference to the final scoreline of 2-0. As a result the Magpies have re-emerged as outside contenders for the Champions League places. Manager Alan Pardew dismissed the notion of playing in Europe’s premier knock-out competition just weeks ago but there are factors in the team’s favour. Their four game winning run compares with Tottenham’s stuttering form of late, while Chelsea’s hectic run of fixtures may also benefit Newcastle’s push. Newcastle remain very much a long shot but with the gap now down to just three points, it is not beyond the realms of possibility.

If the Magpies are to make the top four then Papiss Cisse will need to keep up his stunning run of form. The Senegalese striker is now averaging over a goal a game and has made one of the best starts in Premier League history. He has drawn comparison with former Newcastle number nine Andy Cole, who also had a prolific spell on Tyneside. Both of his goals on Friday were from good pieces of finishing. Another encouraging aspect from Cisse’s play is that he has immediately bought into the team ethos within the club. There were a number of occasions at the Liberty Stadium when the striker was at left back helping out his teammates. This will have immediately gone down well with the manager and the club’s supporters.

In contrast to Cisse’s purple patch, scoring has become much more difficult for fellow striker and countryman Demba Ba. Ba scored immediately against Aston Villa on his return from the African Cup of Nations, but has not scored in eight games since. There is even a small chance that Cisse may overtake him as the club’s leading scorer for the season. Ba was substituted after only an hour against Swansea and did not appear happy to be withdrawn. As a consequence of Cisse’s move during the January transfer window, Ba has played the last few games on the left of a forward three. He is still contributing plenty to the team’s play but frustration may build if he is no longer considered the top forward at Newcastle.

Easter Monday sees the Magpies play Bolton with another opportunity to put pressure on the teams immediately above them. Pardew must cope with a growing list of injuries with central midfielders Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye both doubts going into the game. According to Sky Sports, Tiote is struggling with a hamstring injury and it is unlikely he will be risked. One of Dan Gosling, Harris Vuckic or Mehdi Abeid could make a rare start. It is also unlikely that Danny Guthrie or Fabricio Coloccini will return from injury so soon. Opponents Bolton saw their three match winning run stall at the weekend when they were well beaten by Fulham. An extra day’s rest for the home side may also be an advantage.

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