Alan Pardew: The next three games will define Newcastle's season
Manager is under pressure to field weak team in League Cup game against Manchester City
Alan Pardew has vowed to come through a gruelling three-game run against Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs and keep his job.
The Newcastle manager is once more under pressure following a second successive league defeat to fierce rivals Sunderland at the weekend. That result left Newcastle 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. 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 was at the Stadium of Light on Sunday to witness the 2-1 defeat, and they are not expected to be at the Capital One Cup tie with City at St James'.
However, Ashley could be at White Hart Lane on Sunday week and Pardew knows he can ill afford to have lost every one of a difficult set of games.
"We are coming into some games which are really what our season is all about," he said. "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.
"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 I think we have just had a difficult batch.
"Liverpool at home was really tough when I thought we were heroic and then Sunderland away, regardless of where they were, with a new manager coming in it was a tough game. We haven't come away with what we wanted there, but that does not mean we cannot get a victory against the top teams, who on paper should beat us."
The Newcastle manager somehow has to emerge from another chaotic period at the club, and even the City match presents problems. Newcastle's fixture with Chelsea is a lunchtime kick-off on Saturday and the importance of cup competitions to Newcastle's owner is best highlighted by the fact the club have not progressed past the fourth round of either of the domestic competitions since Ashley took control.
In a meeting with supporters' groups recently, a club employee admitted the Premier League would be given priority. That means Pardew, who could do with a cup run to alleviate mounting pressure on his position, will be expected to play a weakened team. At least four players who started against Sunderland are likely to be rested.
With City smarting after their last-minute defeat to Chelsea on Sunday, the Capital One Cup could be Newcastle's best chance of a result, given the City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, is expected to rest some of his first-choice players. And despite Ashley's preference for the league, Pardew acknowledged a decent Cup showing could help transform their season.
"Personally, the cup is a priority. If you have ever had a taste in the cup it gives you a real buzz and momentum and I want to get that within the group as quickly as we can," he said.
"I think we have a good side but we are into a really tough part of the season in terms of fixtures. City are coming off a defeat. I don't know how many times they get beat twice on the trot. It is not often so we will have to do something extraordinary there. Chelsea are coming off a last-gasp win and [Jose] Mourinho has a spring in his step. That is worrying and after that we face Tottenham.
"I'm not going to say which I want to win more [the City or Chelsea game]. I can't look at it like a fan. From our point of view, I think both are very important but we have to put in performances, especially after Sunderland, which are really strong, get a result, maybe two results.
"We had an emotional and physical game on Sunday and I think regardless of whether this was a cup or Premier League game, I would be resting a couple for this game purely because of that."
To add to another difficult period, 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 were banned because of their coverage of a 500-strong protest march by a group called Time4Change. The Evening Chronicle's front page 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."
Down in the dumps: Pardew's run
Newcastle have been on a terrible run of form since finishing fifth in the Premier League in the 2011-12 season, flirting with relegation last season before ending in 16th place. Alan Pardew's side have won just seven of their last 22 matches.
Newcastle form since August 2012 (all competitions): P 65 W 21 D 17 L 27 Win% 32
Pardew has a poor record in domestic cup competitions at Newcastle, failing to make it past the fourth round in five attempts.
Pardew's cup record:
2010-11 FA Cup: Third round
2011-12 League Cup: Fourth round; FA Cup: Fourth round
2012-13 League Cup: Third round; FA Cup: Third round
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