It was supposed to be reward for a fine previous season, but the drain of the Europa League is threatening to ruin Newcastle's season this time round, and Alan Pardew has the figures to prove it.
Stoke struggled last year with the demands of Thursday/Sunday football, Liverpool and Spurs have still to qualify from their group this year, and for Pardew and his side the next two games, today at Southampton and at Stoke on Wednesday, have become hugely important in an erratic campaign.
"There has been a dip," said Pardew. "It's the intensity you need from the players to play on a Thursday night then again on the Sunday. That information wasn't really available to us until three or four years ago, when GPS [computerised analysis] became the norm and we began getting feedback on players' performance. You've only got to look at that to know there's a dip.
"Unfortunately there's going to be a dip mentally as well. For Southampton it will be a lovely training day today [Friday] and they can probably top it up on Saturday. We don't have a chance to do that and the levels of my players will be a little bit lower.
"There was a bit of that against Maritimo on Thursday in terms of who played and who didn't. Jonas [Gutierrez] for instance doesn't recover particularly well; at a push we could have included him but I decided to rest him because Thursday to Sunday is a bit of an issue for him.
"I'm talking about the energy level we get on a Sunday after playing Thursday compared to a free week. We can measure exact distances players cover, the intensity they work at. It's the high-intensity work that's the bigger deal rather than the mileage. It's like when you've run a marathon, you can run another. It's more difficult with 400 metres. It's that kind of energy that has a dip."
Southampton v Newcastle United is this afternoon, kick-off 3pmReuse content