NEWCASTLE United’s Premier League status is on the line – and Alan Pardew’s again facing tough decisions.
The club’s 4-0 defeat to Manchester City at the Eithad Stadium on Saturday left it just three points above the relegation zone.
Pardew had felt Newcastle were safe a few weeks ago.
And that had strengthened his hand in Europe, where Benfica stand between United and the semi-finals of the Europa League.
Pardew named full-strength teams for the last two rounds of the competition.
However, club’s plight has forced Pardew to reassess his priorities, with Thursday night’s first leg against Benfica at the Estadio da Luz followed by an important home game against Fulham.
With so much at stake at home and abroad, Pardew must coax his squad through what could prove a defining fortnight in his managerial career on Tyneside.
“We have done well in the Europa League, but it can’t detract from the Premier League,” said Pardew.
“We have to make sure we are safe. We need two victories at least, and maybe a third or a fourth to get ourselves into a strong position.”
Pardew wasn’t helped at the Etihad Stadium by the absence of several key players, notably Cheik Tiote, Davide Santon and Mathieu Debuchy.
“The Europa League is going to put us under pressure, because we are missing some big players at the moment,” he added.
Sylvain Marveaux was nursing a groin problem last week, and was left on the bench against City.
Pardew handed a rare Premier League start to Gabriel Obertan, who was ineffective and substituted at the break.
“I think it was difficult for the players coming in,” said Pardew. “We perhaps had too many players missing.