ALAN Pardew turned his attention to domestic matters after Newcastle United’s return to Europe – namely stopping Chelsea and Eden Hazard.
Newcastle beat Roberto Di Matteo’s side 2-0 at Stamford Bridge late last season.
And repeating that feat this evening (5.30pm kick-off) will be a tall order, not least because of the early-season form of Yohan Cabaye’s former Lille team-mate Eden Hazard.
United’s players flew directly to London from Athens yesterday after Thursday night’s 1-1 draw against Greek side Atromitos in the first leg of the club’s Europa League qualifier.
Pardew rested all but two of the players who faced Tottenham Hotpsur with the Chelsea game in mind.
He knows they will have to be at their best if they’re to take anything from the televised game.
Hazard, a creative midfielder, has quickly settled into English football since his £32 move from Lille, and stopping him will be a task handed to Cabaye and Cheik Tiote, though the latter is doubtful with a calf injury.
And Pardew has tapped into Cabaye’s knowledge of Hazard,
“Chelsea are the European champions,” said Pardew.
“They won the Champions League, and they’ve improved since then.
“Hazard looks a great buy. We know him well, so we know what to expect from him.
“There are no surprises in that team, but I think in some ways, we can match them and give a good showing there.”
Pardew rates Newcastle’s win at Stamford Bridge, which came thanks to two stunning goals from Papiss Demba Cisse, as one of the best results of his managerial career.
“I had never won at Chelsea in any capacity,” said Pardew.
“I have been there many times, and it’s a very difficult place to win, so that would go down as one of the great victories.
“But certainly with this team, I think we are a little bit stronger than last year.”
Meanwhile, United are investigating an incident where a bolt was thrown at Ryan Taylor as he prepared to take a corner kick against Atromitos.
The club has made no comment on the matter, and has not, as yet, reported it to UEFA.
Aside from that incident, Pardew was delighted with the welcome his team were afforded in Greece on their return to European competition after a five-year absence.
“The hospitality we have received has been absolutely overwhelming, and I would like to thank Atromitos for that,” said Pardew.
“It couldn’t have been better. We go home with some new experience, certainly for some of our players, because they won’t get that time on the ball they had in a Premier League game.
“Sometimes you can be uncomfortable with time, trust me. I’ve been there as a player, so I know. You pick out the wrong pass and you can lose confidence.
“But everybody used the ball well. We could have had a little bit more devil in our game, but otherwise, I was really happy.”
The return leg is at St James’s Park on Thursday. night.