Alan Pardew not hiding from Newcastle's 'six-pointer' against Reading

Magpies have slipped worryingly close to the relegation zone

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The Independent Football

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew feels there is no hiding from the significance of his team's Barclays Premier League “six-pointer” at home against Reading tomorrow.

The Magpies finished fifth in the table last season but have struggled in 2012-13 and are currently 16th, just two points above the relegation zone and five better off than the 19th-placed Royals.

Looking ahead to this weekend's match, Pardew said: "It's an important game for us and Reading.

"People talk about a six-pointer and all that, but this actually is between us two clubs and we can't hide from that.

"We need to get that distance between us and then strengthen, and all of a sudden we will look a lot more rosy than we do sitting here today."

Newcastle have lost nine and won only two of their last 12 league fixtures.

Pardew - a former Reading manager - added: "Defensively we need to tighten up, and I think we're showing signs.

"But showing signs is not good enough. We've got to deliver and start winning."

One place below Newcastle are Wigan, separated from the drop zone by goal difference alone.

They welcome Sunderland to the DW Stadium tomorrow for a contest in which Latics boss Roberto Martinez may hand Premier League debuts to new signings Roger Espinoza and Angelo Henriquez, who both started Tuesday's FA Cup third-round replay against Bournemouth.

Martinez said: "The game was very helpful in that respect.

"Both players looked match-ready and they are desperate for league action."

For West Brom - who host Aston Villa, the side level on points with Wigan in 18th, in tomorrow's 5.30pm kick-off - the focus has been on retaining players.

Albion pair Jonas Olsson and Peter Odemwingie are reportedly targets for basement boys QPR, but Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster is confident the duo will stay.

Foster said: "I hope they don't go and I'm pretty sure they won't.

"It would be a big blow but I'm sure they're very happy at West Brom."

QPR, two points behind Reading, visit West Ham, while Stoke play at Swansea and Liverpool entertain Norwich.

Tomorrow's other match sees champions Manchester City, looking to make up ground on leaders Manchester United, take on Fulham at the Etihad Stadium.

United, presently seven points clear at the top, are at fourth-placed Tottenham on Sunday after Chelsea and Arsenal - third and sixth respectively right now - go head-to-head at Stamford Bridge earlier in the day.

Fifth-placed Everton then meet Southampton at St Mary's on Monday night.