Pardew vows to survive three-game test of mettle
Newcastle boss in dire need of cup boost after derby defeat leaves job on the line
ALAN PARDEW is hoping to come through a gruelling three-game run against Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham with enough credits to keep his job.
The Newcastle manager is once more under pressure following a second successive league defeat to fierce rivals Sunderland last Sunday – a setback that left the Magpies three points above the Premier League relegation zone before Chelsea's visit to St James' Park on Saturday.
Pardew's position was undermined hugely by the arrival of Joe Kinnear as the club's director of football in the summer and there remains uncertainty over his future.
Newcastle's form this season has been indifferent and they have won just one of their last four league games.
Neither the club's owner, Mike Ashley, nor Kinnear were at the Stadium of Light to witness the 2-1 defeat, and they are not expected to be at tonight's League Cup tie with City at St James' Park. However, Ashley could be at White Hart Lane on Sunday week and Pardew knows he can ill afford to lose all three of a difficult set of games.
"We have lost two games to teams in and around us and we have to try to make up those two against the top teams," he said.
"I'm not worried about a slump because I think it is a long Premier League season and you have to be logical. There are periods in the season when you have difficult games and we have just had a difficult batch.
"Liverpool at home was really tough and I thought we were heroic. Then we had Sunderland away. Regardless of where they were, with a new manager coming in, it was always going to be a tough game.
"We haven't come away with what we wanted, but that does not mean we cannot get a victory against the top teams."
Newcastle could do with a cup run to ease mounting pressure on Pardew's position, but the league is their priority and the manager will be under pressure to play a weakened team tonight ahead of Saturday's lunch-time kick-off against Chelsea.
At least four players who started against Sunderland are likely to be rested. Newcastle delivered a diabolical response after being beaten at home by Sunderland back in April, losing 6-0 to Liverpool at St James' Park – a defeat which almost cost Pardew his job and the Magpies their place in the Premier League.
Anything like a repeat of that in any of their next three games would almost certainly mean a change of manager.
Emotions are running high on Tyneside after last Sunday's defeat – the first time Newcastle have lost back-to-back derbies since 1967. To add to their worries, the battle lines have now been drawn between the club and the local newspapers – the 'Evening Chronicle', the 'Newcastle Journal' and the 'Sunday Sun'.
All three have been banned from St James' Park because of their support for a 500-strong protest march by a group called Time4Change.
The 'Evening Chronicle' front page yesterday warned: "Banned but not gagged" and the 'Newcastle Journal' ran a withering opinion piece on Ashley's tenure.
Pardew admitted that the club had sent a letter, but there is no suggestion they will back down from the all-encompassing ban.
"We've drafted a letter we think is correct and that's it," he said. "They have to respond to that."
Meanwhile, under-fire City goalkeeper Joe Hart is expected to be left out of the starting line-up. Hart is under scrutiny after a mix-up between himself and Matija Nastasic led to Chelsea's late winner at Stamford Bridge last weekend.
It was the latest of a series of errors to have blighted the 26-year-old's performances for club and country over the past year.
It would not be unusual in itself if Hart were to be replaced by Costel Pantilimon as the Romanian has often been preferred for cup fixtures in the past two seasons.
But given the increased speculation over Hart's position – after mistakes against Scotland, Cardiff, Aston Villa and Bayern Munich this season – tonight could be the opportunity to stake a claim for a regular place.
Pantilimon (26) has not played in the Premier League since joining City from Timisoara in the summer of 2011 as replacement for Shay Given.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini declined to answer questions about Hart after the Chelsea loss and has previously said he is not immune to the axe. Captain Vincent Kompany, who has missed the last three games with a groin injury, remains a fitness doubt but midfielder Jack Rodwell could be in contention for a return.
August deadline day signing Martin Demichelis – the defender who made a belated debut at Chelsea after overcoming a knee injury – could be given another run-out.
(© Independent News Service)
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