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Pardew ready for 'real go' at Premier League
ALAN PARDEW may be gearing up for an end of season drive to European glory this season, but the Newcastle United manager has already started to think about a push towards the upper echelons of the Premier League next year.
While Tyneside is excited about the prospect of a two-legged quarter-final with Portuguese league leaders Benfica in the Europa League next month, domestically things have not gone as planned.
With just eight matches remaining in the Premier League, Newcastle are only six points above the relegation zone and sit 17 points shy of the fifth-placed finish they achieved last May.
Newcastle also made early exits in the FA Cup and Capital One Cup, so had it not been for the progress made on the European front then there would have been an over-riding feeling of disappointment.
But Pardew, named the League Managers Association and Premier League manager of the year for guiding Newcastle to fifth last season, thinks he has seen enough since the turn of the year to hearten him ahead of next season.
The arrivals of Moussa Sissoko, Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoann Gouffran and Massadio Haidara during the January transfer window have boosted a squad lacking experience and depth.
And now Pardew feels that, with one or two further additions in the summer and retaining the likes of key man Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle have the potential and the quality to challenge at the right end of the Premier League again - rather than face a repeat of the struggles at the wrong end of the division.
"We have the Dutch national goalkeeper (Tim Krul) and more players in the French national side than any other club including Paris Saint Germain and whoever you want to name in France," said the Newcastle boss.
"We're getting there and now, really and truly, we're setting ourselves up for next year to have a real good go at the Premier League. This year we know we need to get safety under the belt quickly and if we can, hopefully we can cover ourselves in glory in the Europa League."
Before Pardew can seriously think about next season, however, he is keen to make the most of the opportunities his squad has in the Europa League this season.
And ahead of the trip to Benfica on Thursday, April 4, Newcastle have a difficult trip to Manchester City in seven days time as they look to pick up the points which will assure them of a place in the top-flight again next year.
It was confirmed yesterday that Haidara will not be available for the trip to Eastlands, although the young full-back could be back in early April after receiving encouraging news on the knee injury sustained at Wigan last Sunday.
The horror tackle on him from Callum McManaman, which has caused much debate throughout the week between the two clubs and beyond, has not left the sort of damage Newcastle feared.
Results from the scans he had on his knee came through yesterday and a club statement read: "We can confirm that results of the latest scan on Massadio Haidara show the player has very fortunately escaped any significant bone or ligament damage â€¦
"We are very pleased that the extent of his injury is less severe than first feared and is limited to bruising to the bone and soft tissue damage. Depending on the speed of his recovery he should be fit to play again in early April.
"Massadio will continue to be assessed over the coming days. He has been very lucky that he has not suffered more serious injury and this positive diagnosis in no way lessens the club's views with regard to the severity of the tackle from which it resulted."