Alan Pardew has admitted some of his players will be playing for their futures at Newcastle in the remaining 12 games of the season.
The Magpies have stalled in recent weeks with a run of three successive Barclays Premier League defeats seeing them lose touch with the top six.
Pardew is already planning a summer recruitment drive after losing key midfielder Yohan Cabaye to Paris St Germain last month, and with question marks hanging over several members of his current squad and others out of contract, there is likely to be a significant number of departures.
In the circumstances, the next three months could prove crucial for those men yet to nail down a first-team place, as well as those who have set their hearts on a trip to the World Cup finals in Brazil.
Asked if some are playing for their futures - there has been speculation over the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Sylvain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan and loan signing Luuk de Jong, among others - Pardew said: "Yes, I think some are.
"Others not so, but I am still looking for a level of performance and consistency that will maybe get them into a World Cup squad and make sure they are a regular next season at this football club."
For all that planning for the summer is under way, Pardew's more immediate task is to arrest an alarming slump which has seen the club pick up just a single point from its last four games and concede 10 goals without reply in the last three.
They will have a chance to arrest that slide when Aston Villa head for St James' Park on Sunday with the Magpies having been marooned on 37 points since their 0-0 draw at Norwich on January 28.
For all Newcastle enjoyed an encouraging first half of the campaign, Pardew's first target - 40 points - is yet to be reached, and that is an issue he intends to resolve at the earliest possible opportunity after last season's scramble for safety.
He said: "I would like to really get that out of the way on Sunday and hopefully we can. I wouldn't say we are very comfortable, but we are comfortable."
Pardew and his players were far from comfortable by the end of their last 90 minutes at St James', when they left the pitch to a chorus of boos from what remained of the crowd after a 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Tottenham.
The manager and owner Mike Ashley have come in for concerted criticism for differing reasons since, and Pardew has left his players in little doubt as to what he expects of them from now on.
He said: "I can accept defeat, I have no problem with that, but there are ways and means to get a defeat.
"That wasn't the way or the means to get a defeat at this football club and I won't accept it.
"I just thought it was important to remind players of the responsibility they have, no matter how comfortable we are in the league, that there's a certain standard at this football club that we expect, and we didn't reach that standard by any stretch of the imagination.
"I made it plainly clear that I won't stand for it. That will be reflected in the selection of the team, and hopefully in the result."
Striker Loic Remy returns to the Newcastle squad. The Frenchman is available after serving a three-match ban. Central defender Fabricio Coloccini (knee) and midfielder Cheick Tiote (hamstring) could also be available.
Paul Lambert hopes to heap the pressure on Newcastle and capitalise on their recent woes at St James' Park by continuing Aston Villa's impressive away form this weekend.
Pardew's side have not won at home since Boxing Day and have conceded nine in their last three on Tyneside without reply.
Villa meanwhile have collected 17 of their 28 points on the road and seem to relish playing away from home more than at Villa Park.
Lambert hopes he can take advantage of those statistics when the two sides clash on Sunday.
"I think the expectation levels will be on Newcastle with the crowd and the club that it is," he said.
"They've been beaten pretty heavily in their last few home games which isn't like them, because they've been pretty consistent.
"Alan's done a great job there and it'll be a tough game. But we also know that if you can get on the front foot the crowd might become edgy."
He added: "I think any club with a big fanbase, especially at home, they come expecting you to win and if things go against you you can hear the grumblings and the moans and such.
"But you've got to be a big enough player to take the ball in any situation. You can never be frightened by it. It's something you have to be able to live with and be able to handle that pressure.
"Sometimes it can get to you. Some players can handle it but if it gets to you, it becomes tough."
Lambert has no new injury concerns. His squad came through a recent warm-weather training camp in Portugal well and he expects to have a largely fit squad at his disposal.