Alan Pardew is convinced Newcastle will face the team of the season when they play Liverpool regardless whether they lift the Barclays Premier League title or not on Sunday.
Brendan Rodgers' men head into the final game of the campaign with their destiny no longer in their own hands after losing at home to Chelsea and then squandering a 3-0 lead in remarkable fashion against Crystal Palace eight days later.
But no matter what unfolds as the campaign draws to a close, Pardew insists the men from Anfield deserve all the plaudits which have come their way.
He said: "They have been brilliant. They have been the team of the season, probably, regardless of whether they win it or not.
"It's a tough game for us because at home, they have been awesome.
"They have got real pace in the team and in the modern game, that kills you.
"You look at Bayern Munich - it's real pace everywhere. Real Madrid - the top teams, you have got to have that pace.
Who could replace Alan Pardew if the Newcastle manager is sacked?
Who could replace Alan Pardew if the Newcastle manager is sacked?
1/10 Steve Bruce
Bruce has drawn plaudits for the way he has led Hull City in their first season back in the Premier League, with an FA Cup final still to come after a successful cup run. His performance this year has even led to Arsene Wenger, the man he will go up against at Wembley when Hull take on Arsenal, claiming he should be considered for the manager of the year award. Talk of a dearth of English managerial talent could be laid to rest if Bruce wins the prestigious trophy, and a call from Tyneside could follow soon after
2/10 Tony Pulis
Pulis’ resurrection of Crystal Palace has been nothing short of magical, with the Eagles appearing to be doomed when Ian Holloway left the club. The former Stoke manager has installed a calm and controlled style of play that has his players full of belief – exactly what Newcastle lack right now under Pardew, and Pulis’ credentials over the past few months have certainly improved which could lead to interest from those clubs (not much) higher up the league
3/10 Malky Mackay
The discarded Cardiff manager has been unable to assume a new job while his legal dispute with his former club goes on, but a number of sides are said to be interested in Mackay’s services when he becomes available. While he remains the favourite to take over at his former club Norwich, he could yet find himself at St James’ Park, although the accusations from the Welsh capital of overspending in the transfer window won’t suit Magpies’ owner Ashley
4/10 Michael Laudrup
Laudrup has remained quiet since Swansea chose to make do with his services in favour of Garry Monk back in February, but the Dane has been linked with a move to St James’ Park and he may favour a return to managing in England
5/10 Lee Clark
The former Newcastle great is currently struggling to keep Birmingham afloat in the Championship, with the Blues requiring four points from their final two matches to ensure they beat Doncaster in the battle for survival. Relegation to League One wouldn’t do his application any good at all, but a reluctance of other managers to take the post could see a return to St James’ Park for the former midfielder
6/10 Roberto Di Matteo
Di Matteo is another who has stayed out of the managerial game since his dismissal by Chelsea, in 2012, but despite being constantly linked with a return with a number of clubs, has refrained from rushing any decision. That’s hardly surprising, as the Italian is one of few managers available with a Champions League winners’ medal among his collection
7/10 Glenn Hoddle
Hoddle has turned his hand to TV punditry, although this has provided him with the platform to push his suitability for a return to former club Tottenham. It is clear that Hoddle is ready for a return to management, but whether that is with Newcastle is unknown. An approach is likely to be listened to by Hoddle, but it’s been 11 years since the former England manager last held a role in the Premier League
8/10 Joe Kinnear
Never far from being linked with a Newcastle return, Kinnear can’t be ruled out when it comes to Mike Ashley. The 67-year-old left his previous role as Newcastle manager in 2009 due to a health scare, but made a stunning return last year as the club’s director of football to deal with the club’s transfer activity. Two transfer windows, two loan signings and no permanent signings later, Kinnear left the club for a second time earlier this year
9/10 Neil Lennon
The Celtic manager would be an unlikely candidate for the Magpies role, but the chance to test himself in the Premier League would surely appeal to the Northern Irishman after winning everything that Scottish football has to offer. A chance of scenery could also suit Lennon given the intense pressure of managing Celtic – although the winning part isn’t the hardest job in the world – but he would be giving up near-on guaranteed Champions league football for a run at Europa League qualification
10/10 Tim Sherwood
The former Watford, Norwich, Blackburn, Tottenham, Portsmouth and Coventry midfielder looks set to be out of t a job in the summer should Spurs’ chairman Daniel Levy wield the expected axe at White Hart Lane. A number of clubs in the Premier League have been linked with offering Sherwood a chance to continue his managerial career in the Premier League, and a no-nonsense approach to the Newcastle squad could be exactly what the doctor ordered on Tyneside
"It's something that as a manager, you long for and hopefully, we can improve a little bit on in our team."
Key to Liverpool's success has been their SAS strike partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
Pardew has huge admiration for Uruguay international Suarez, who was last month named the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year.
He said: "You don't win an award like that from your fellow professionals unless you deserve it. He has been outstanding.
"He elevates Liverpool to another level, there's no doubt about that. I think Brendan would agree with that."
Newcastle will run out at Anfield at least having ended a damaging run of six successive league defeats by beating Cardiff 3-0 at St James' Park last week, although amid an atmosphere which left Pardew in little doubt as to his current standing on Tyneside.
His most vociferous critics were far from placated by a result which at least ensured the club will finish in the top half of the table, and he knows he has a major job on his hands to persuade some supporters that he remains the right man for the job.
The 52-year-old said: "We desperately want to win and in terms of the game, it's going to be a great atmosphere, for sure, because Brendan Rodgers has done an unbelievable job.
"Moving four or five positions at the top of the league is the hardest job that there is in football, and for me, he has got a great chance of being Manager of the Year, and rightly so - and he could still win the title.
"That's his format. For me, it's about a performance that will make our fans at least believe that we have got some good players here still and that we just need a couple more to boost it.
"I have got to be careful what numbers I use because it always gets washed away, but we know that we need more players."
How many players he will be able to sign and in what price bracket - and indeed, whether or not he will be remain in the post to reap the rewards of a summer recruitment drive - will become clearer when Pardew sits down with owner Mike Ashley in the immediate aftermath of a difficult season.
Targets have been identified - the Magpies have been credited with having interest in Swansea midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and out-of-contract Sunderland counterpart Jack Colback - although the manager admits the wish-list is changing all the time.
He said: "It's a movable feast, to a degree, because players become available and also unavailable that you think are available. They sign new contracts or they sign elsewhere.
"But we are very much focussed on covering areas that we feel need strengthening. I would like to think that we can take up the technical quality of the team."