ROB Elliot’s says the Europe’s already at the back of Newcastle United’s players’ minds – with the Premier League survival again their focus.
Alan Pardew’s side booked a place in the Europa League’s quarter-finals with a dramatic 1-0 win over Anzhi Makhachkala at St James’s Park on Thursday night.
And expectations are high on Tyneside that Newcastle can beat next opponents Benfica and reach the semi-finals, despite Elliot admitting they are ‘underdogs’.
But the club is yet to secure its Premier League status for another season, and Elliot is targeting another victory against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium tomorrow.
In the first half of the season, United struggled domestic form after a European game, but Elliot believes the squad has now adjusted to the demands of playing in both competitions.
“We’ll crack on again,” Elliot said.
“What we’ve learnt to do since Christmas is change our mindset from the Europa League back to the Premier League.
“We’ve managed to pick up points this side of Christmas. Fingers crossed, we can do that at Wigan. It’s a tough game.”
Relegation-threatened Wigan are themselves buoyed by their own cup success, having booked a place in the FA Cup semi-finals last weekend.
“With Wigan, they can beat a top-four team on their day,” added goalkeeper Elliot. “They play some fantastic football.
“Maybe they’re a little bit unpredictable, but anyone who saw the cup game will know if you’re not on your game against them, they can really hurt you.
“We’ll never under-estimate any team. We’ll have to be ready for whatever they throw at us.”
Papiss Demba Cisse netted a dramatic injury-time winner against Anzhi two minutes after Mbark Boussoufa crashed a free-kick against Elliot’s crossbar.
“Everyone felt the euphoria of that goal – it topped off the game,” said Elliot.
“I had a good go at getting after it (Boussoufa’s free-kick). It was a great free-kick, and lucky for us it hit the bar.
“I thought it’d hit my arm and went back in, but it went clear.
“Sylvain Marveaux and Papiss repeated what they did against Stoke – it was a brilliant ball in, and a great finish.”
Elliot says United, having knocked out one of the favourites for the Europa League, don’t fear any of the teams left in the competition.
The 26-year-old added: “With us being the underdogs, it’ll stand us in good stead.
“We can just look forward to it and enjoy it – no one expected us to get to this stage.
“We’ll be the underdogs in the next round.
“I’m trying to take every step at a time, but it’s a massive achievement for the team.
“We just want to keep having these nights.
“We’ve had some tough times here, and we need to enjoy it.”