Alan Pardew sets the ‘agenda’ for NUFC’s week of destiny

BULLISH ... Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is looking forward to a huge week for the club.
BULLISH ... Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is looking forward to a huge week for the club.

ALAN Pardew will tell his Newcastle United side to play with their heads AND their hearts against Benfica.

Pardew’s team trail the Portuguese side 3-1 from last week’s Europa League quarter-final first leg at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon.

And Newcastle need to score at least two goals in Thursday night’s second-leg at a sold-out St James’s Park.

While the pressure is on United to get forward, Pardew is urging patience from fans and players alike, with the game likely to be different to Sunday’s blood-and-thunder Tyne-Wear derby against Sunderland.

“Our fans need to understand on Thursday, in the quarter final of the Europa League, that if we go gung ho looking for two quick goals, we’re just going to get killed,” Pardew told SportMail.

“They’ve got real quality on the break.

“We’ve got to be very intelligent. We’ve got to be patient.”

Newcastle beat Fulham 1-0 on Sunday thanks to a injury-time strike from Papiss Demba Cisse, and Pardew knows his team is capable of finishing strongly, as underlined by the striker’s 90th-minute winner against Anzhi Makhachkala in the last round.

Cisse’s made a habit of leaving it until the final few minutes this season, and a late flourish could put the club into the last four of the competition – if Benfica have been kept off the scoresheet.

“We know what we’re like at the end of games,” he added.

“We just need to get ourselves in a position.

“If we can get a goal with 20 minutes to go, we can do it. That’s the agenda for me.”

History, however, isn’t on United’s side.

“It’s only been done twice, I’m told. Steaua Bucharest and Fulham, ironically,” said Pardew. “We’ll see what we can do.”

The Tyne-Wear derby on Sunday, meanwhile, will be less of a tactical battle, and Pardew added: “Sunday takes care of itself. We know what it’s about.” While Sunderland have a full week’s preparation for the derby, United’s thoughts will only turn to the game on Friday.

Pardew admits that isn’t ideal preparation for the Sunderland’s visit to Tyneside, but he wouldn’t have it any other way, such is the opportunity in front of his team, who left the Estadio da Luz frustrated at the second and third goals they conceded.

“I’d rather not (have a game three days before),” said Pardew, who could have forward Hatem Ben Arfa back for the derby.

“But then would I rather have the quarter final of the Europa League? Yes, I would.

“We could have a marvellous week.”

Pardew, however, is still conscious that United remain in a relegation battle, despite the bookmakers lengthening the odds on the club getting relegated to 25/1.

“It’s very important all the teams in the bottom 10 concentrate on getting points because it (the total required) might not be as low as some people are suggesting,” he said.

“I remember inheriting a West Ham team that went down on 42 points, so you mustn’t be complacent. I certainly won’t be.

“We’ve got to keep a close eye on things down there.”

Twitter: @milesstarforth