Norwich City the first step to European football for Newcastle boss Alan Pardew
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew wants a Premier League win over the Canaries to be the first of five steps to European football next season.
The sixth-placed Magpies are determined not to squander the opportunity of clinching a Europa League berth ahead of Norwich's weekend visit to the north-east.
'We don't want to do that. We are saying we are going to push for Europe now and let our fans know we are going to try to push for it,' he said. 'We are going to need four or five wins and if we don't beat Norwich, that's going to look difficult in nine games, because that means the task will be that much harder. But if we win, then can we win three or four of our next nine? I think we can, and that would put us in with a great chance of Europe, so it's a very important game.'
However, with Carling Cup winners Liverpool having closed the gap to just two points with their midweek derby victory over Everton 24 hours after Newcastle's last-gasp 2-1 defeat at Arsenal, Pardew knows the pressure is on.
'It's tough to get into Europe. You have got a team with the finance and quality of Liverpool who could run us down,' he said. 'We will have to hold our hands up if that happens, but we are going to give them a good fight for their money. We are definitely focusing on Europe now, make no mistake about that, we have got ourselves into that position. But Alex Ferguson will tell you the last 10 games are the most important ones and we are in them now, so we will see how we get on.'
The Magpies have taken just two points from the last 12 on offer with home draws against Wolves and Sunderland yielding their only returns during that period. Big-money January signing Papiss Cisse found himself sitting on the bench at the Emirates Stadium as he attempts to get to grips with the pace and power of the Premier League. Pardew has challenged the Senegalese to follow in the footsteps of Hatem Ben Arfa, whose match-turning contribution at Sunderland and classy opening goal at Arsenal have pushed his claims for a regular start.
'Forget about the goal, because it's almost like we accept that from Hatem, he is going to produce a moment of magic for us,' said Pardew. 'But of course, the structure of our team needs to be strong. We are not a dominant force - Hatem possibly wouldn't need to work so hard if he was at Manchester United, but in our team, he does. His performance at Arsenal was one of his best in terms of his diligence for the team. He understands that the team comes first, and I can't speak highly enough of where he is at the minute.'