Pardew: Priority is Europe
Alan Pardew will focus fully on Europa League glory after seeing Newcastle all but end their fears of being dragged into the fight for Barclays Premier League survival.
A dramatic 2-1 victory over Stoke at St James' Park eased the Magpies nine points clear of the bottom three with nine games to play, and left Pardew able to target Thursday night's clash with Anzhi Makhachkala and a place in the quarter-finals. Defeat may have given him pause for thought ahead of a weekend meeting with Wigan.
The 51-year-old said: "To be honest, I think we are done. You have got to get 40 points, of course, but we are now seven points from that with nine games left, and you would expect this team to follow through with the standard it has got now to be able to do that."
He continued: "But the bigger picture is to finish strongly like Everton [last season] and take it into next year, and we are showing some good signs in terms of doing that. We are looking no further than Thursday night because we could have a really special night here on Thursday now. We have got a great opportunity in that competition. We are in the last 16 in Europe.
"We have had to battle through too many games - that competition is too many games for a Premier League team, I'm never going to change my opinion on that.
"But we are down to the real nitty-gritty now. We have got a real quality team coming on Thursday and our fans are well-educated enough to know that it will be tough for us and we are going to need every one of them in here to make the atmosphere such that we squeeze through."
Jonathan Walters had fired Stoke ahead against the run of play from the penalty spot with 67 minutes gone. The Magpies refused to accept defeat and hit back when Yohan Cabaye curled a delicious free-kick in off the underside of the crossbar. Newcastle won it deep into injury time when Papiss Cisse ran on to substitute Sylvain Marveaux's pass and slotted home the winner.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis believes his side should have been awarded a penalty for Davide Santon's first-half challenge on Ryan Shotton. Perhaps with more justification, he suggested that Cisse might have been sent off for an altercation with Marc Wilson and Ryan Shawcross.
He said: "We are desperately disappointed. We could have had a penalty in the first half; the incident where Cisse was involved with Ryan and Willo - on another day, something could have happened with him and he might not even have been on the pitch. The referee deemed that it was alright. Fine, if he's still on the pitch, we should defend better.
"But I am disappointed, absolutely distraught with the result, but the performance and the effort and the commitment of the players was absolutely first-class."