ALAN Pardew has sent an SOS to his Newcastle United team – Salvage Our Season!
Pardew’s side take on Metalist Kharkiv in the Ukraine tonight looking to qualify for the last 16 of the Europa League.
With Newcastle having no chance of equalling last year’s fifth-placed finish in the Premier League, top-flight survival – and a run in Europe – are Pardew’s twin goals.
He feels if United, held to a goalless draw at St James’s Park by Metalist last week – can get through to the next stage, the Europa League will be there for the taking.
And if the club can progress to the latter stages, it will put a different complexion on a season which has, up to now, been disappointing given the expectations generated by last term’s achievements.
“Picking up the remnants of injuries and suspensions, it’s about salvaging this season as best we can,” Pardew told SportMail. “The best we can finish in the Premier League is a top-10 finish – that’s nowhere near fifth we achieved last year.
“We can’t really improve in that area.
“But we’re in a big competition – we earned the right to be in it. We have a chance in this.
“I think this tie is important. Once you get beyond this tie, the competition comes to life, as it did last year.
“We might be entering it with our strongest team. It’s a key game.
“If we were to lose, we’d have to accept that. Maybe, with (Hatem) Ben Arfa’s return, and how we sit at the moment, that would be disappointing.”
Pardew – who fielded significantly-weakened teams in the group stage of the competition – named a strong team in the first-leg, which saw Papiss Demba Cisse have two goals chalked off for offside.
There will be at least one change tonight – Davide Santon was left behind on Tyneside with a “sore ankle” – but Pardew says he will be “ambitious” in his team selection.
“Sometimes you have to be ambitious in a competition like this – my team will have ambition in it, trust me,” he added.
United will be backed by around 500 fans at the Metalist Stadium, which is expected to be sold out.