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Cabaye is not getting carried away by Magpies' form
NEWCASTLE UNITED midfielder Yohan Cabaye believes there are similarities between this season and the campaign that saw the Magpies finish fifth in the Premier League, but the Frenchman insists it is too early to talk about their chances of qualifying for Europe.
Cabaye was Newcastle’s match-winner against Manchester United on Saturday with his goal securing the Tynesiders’ first win at Old Trafford in 41 years.
The result took Newcastle’s current run to five wins in six league games and Alan Pardew’s side are now up to seventh in the table, three points behind fourth-placed Manchester City.
Comparisons are already being made between this season and the 2001-12 campaign, but Cabaye insists the squad is ignoring talk of a possible European finish and instead is focusing on the busy festive programme that lies ahead.
At this stage two seasons ago the Magpies had amassed 26 points from 15 games, which is the same total they have now.
With three difficult but very winnable games on the horizon in the form of Southampton (Saturday), Crystal Palace away and Stoke City at St James’ Park on Boxing Day, excitement is building on Tyneside, but Cabaye insists the players are not getting carried away by their current form.
“There are similarities to two years ago, but it is too early to start getting carried away,” said Cabaye, who scored his third goal of the season against Manchester United.
“Five wins out of the last six matches is a very good record, and hopefully at the end, we will have the same finish as we did two years ago. We can't afford to think about the future too much at this stage, though.
“People might start talking about qualifying for Europe, or even the Champions League, but we can't afford to think like that. The Christmas period is coming, and that is always an important period. If we are in the same position as now in the middle of January, then why not start to look further forward?
“But we have to get there first. There are going to be a lot of games in the next month, and we will have to focus on our recovery between matches. We need to keep all the players as fit as we can, because that will help us play to our best, and that is the only way we can stay close to the top of the league.”
In the 2011-12 season, Newcastle took seven points from an available 15 over the Christmas period and Pardew will be hoping his side can achieve a similar total with Arsenal and West Brom also coming up.
This weekend’s game against Southampton at St James’ Park is likely to test the Magpies’ European credentials even more with Mauricio Pochettino’s side also impressing near the top of the table.
The Saints are one place and three points behind Newcastle in the table and like their opponents on Saturday they have taken points from the so-called ‘big teams’ including Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City this season.
The Magpies will be aiming to continue their purple patch on Tyneside, but they will have to do so without their Old Trafford goal hero Cabaye, who is suspended for picking up his fifth booking of the season.
His absence will be a blow for Pardew, but the Frenchman believes his suspension may be a blessing in disguise after his international exploits.
He said: “Maybe the suspension will prove to be a good thing. It will allow me to relax for a little bit because I have been very busy for the national team.
“I could feel myself starting to get a bit tired, so perhaps the next week will give me an opportunity to relax and get some treatment that I need. It is hard to play so many games, and maybe I need this break.”
Cabaye helped France reach next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil when he was part of the side that overturned a two-goal deficit to beat Ukraine 3-2 over their two-legged play-off.
Unlike England, Les Blues were handed a relatively kind draw with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras completing Group E, but Cabaye has revealed his country will not be taking anything for granted next summer.
“We could have got a much worse draw,” the former Lille midfielder said. “The three games are not going to be easy and the teams we are playing against deserve to be playing at the World Cup as well.
“I don't know so much about Ecuador or Honduras, but we will not be taking anything for granted. We have to be focused on the job we have ahead of us. Our mentality has to be right, and our target is to go through to the last 16.”
*Newcastle’s home game against Aston Villa has been chosen for live broadcasting by Sky TV.
The match on Saturday, February 22, was originally due to kick-off at 3pm, but it will now take place at 5:30pm.
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