Speaking ahead of the Arsenal match Alan Pardew told the Daily Mail:

“It’s a mini-season for us now and this is an important game in terms of the Champions League because, if we win we are going to be given a shout. We can gain momentum and we go to the next game.

If we lose, really it’s over and then we can focus on ten games and the Europa League. Realistically, it would be a bridge too far for us with what I’ve got on the training pitch.

But if we were to be fortunate enough to win – or good enough to win because one or the other is going to decide it – then we will face Norwich (at home) with a chance.’

 I want to win the game, but we’ve got to be in the game. At Tottenham, we didn’t have a way back and we were dead and buried at half time. But look at Spurs now and I have to say that we probably met them at their optimum.

We have to be in the game with ten or 15 minutes to go and, if we are, I won’t settle for a draw, for sure.

Arsenal have just been knocked out of the Champions League and are maybe now focused on the top three or four.

We have got to be on our guard so that after 30 minutes we are not in big trouble like we were at Spurs”.

Interesting to see that for really the first time Alan Pardew has admitted we are in the race for fourth…is to say we’ll be out of it tonight if we lose!

Agree with his analysis and we can’t have another Tottenham where we were out of the game before putting two passes together. It’s a difficult one because the very best way to undoubtedly still be in the game is to get the first goal. That of course is at odds with a safety first option of keeping it tight/men behind the ball etc etc.

The big difference tonight is that with Cabaye and Tiote expected in the middle, they should give much better protection to the back four than Guthrie and Perch did at White Hart Lane. As for attacking options the hint for me about going for it late on if we are drawing, suggests to me that he has in mind bringing Ben Arfa off the bench as a potential match winner.

Personally, I’d love to see Ben Arfa on from the start after his excellent second half display against the mackems. Up against a team who are going to try and get at us it could be an ideal match for him to exploit the space that could give Newcastle, maybe that’s asking for a very big contribution from Tiote and Cabaye in terms of making sure we aren’t caught short at the back but they are capable if on top form.

Either way it looks a fascinating match ahead….just so long as it’s not over after five minutes.