I’m not making excuses but possibly in an ideal world you wouldn’t have your two players in the heart of the action heading off to Africa, or playing a grudge match against Germany, in the midweek before a derby.

Whatever the reason, Cabaye and Tiote haven’t picked up where they left off in the humbling of Manchester United in January. What is clear is that we need them on their game in the run in and Yohan Cabate has been commenting on this very point:

“Now there are 11 games and we (Cabaye and Tiote) hope to play together in all 11 games and help to win many of them to stay at the top of the league and get into the Europa League or maybe more.

Personally, I love playing next to Cheick. He understands football.

He can play easily one and two-touch, he is a very, very good midfielder and he can get the ball up the field to the attackers.

For us, he is very good. For me and for the wide players, we can go forward and Cheick stays just in front of the back four.

I have learnt about the intensity in the game and to run, to attack, to defend. I am stronger now than at the start of the season.

It [the English game] is more physical. The referee doesn’t whistle like in France, so you have to learn about that. You have to be very focused”.

Maybe we forget that the likes of Cabaye has only been here six months and if we keep the two of them together we, and they, could have some season next time around.

Our focus though is all about Monday and the following ten matches, a draw or better and it sets Newcastle United up for that run in, to do that we need to be winning the middle of the pitch.