Pardew relishes Newcastle's 'top of the table' encounter
Just a glance at the football form table for 2012 shows why Sir Alex Ferguson has not given up hope of taking a 13th Premier League title with Manchester United.
The resurgence of Newcastle, with seven wins from their last eight games, has yielded them only three points less than the tally of Manchester City, their opponents in tomorrow's crucial match, since the turn of the year: 35 to City's 38.
If Ferguson understands the significance of that, the Newcastle manager Alan Pardew revels in it. Newcastle were unbeaten when they went to the Etihad in November and lost 3-1. Then, as Pardew admitted yesterday, there was a lack of belief in his players that they could stand toe to toe with such a big club. That is certainly no longer the case.
"Forget about individuals, look at the two teams – our team is going to compete with them. I can't pay any greater respect to my side," said Pardew. "They deserve that respect because they have earned it. That's not about me, or Papiss Cissé, but the team. We have got 35 points this year, City have got 38. We have the advantage [tomorrow] because we are at home, and our fans make a huge difference to us.
"I would say we have closed that gap [on City], even though in November we were up-beat. Looking from the sidelines then I still felt there was an extra element to their game. Looking at us against Chelsea and Liverpool, I think we have closed that gap.
"This club has come on in leaps and bounds in the last two years. It has been a meteoric rise in form and credibility. We have created a situation where next year is going to be problematic for us. We need to make sure, when this season ends, [to work out] where we went wrong and where we went right. We have to correct the bad things and recognise the good ones, and keep doing them to improve because next year will be a difficult season for us.
"I look at it closely and we have taken points off Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal, and Manchester United. Man City are the only ones we have not. Now, if you look at that, you would have to say, maybe they can, looking at that record. We haven't yet. So on Sunday it is there for us to take points off all the top teams and that would be a great feat for this team. And I think we can do it.
"I would suggest there is a little bit more pressure on them, being as they are away from home and going for the title."
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