Alan Pardew has played down talk of European football at Newcastle United ahead of their English Premier League encounter with Everton.
The Magpies could rise as high as sixth place on Saturday if they can see off David Moyes’ men, with that position perhaps enough to earn a place in the Europa League if other sides above them succeed in any of the cup competitions.
Pardew’s first priority is survival, but he is keeping an open mind and said ahead of the game with Everton: “It’s not lost on us where we could be on Saturday night.”
“With the goal difference we’ve got we can jump a couple of places and that’s what you want to do at any football club.”
“We’re thriving to get a victory on Saturday and we’ll see where it leaves us at 5pm.”
The Europa League would mark major progress for the Magpies, with the team plying their trade in the Championship just 12 months ago.
Pardew said: “We can jump up the league but that’s different to saying we can get into Europe.”
“We have a team that is functioning well and the results have been good since the turn of the year. We want to keep it going.”
“We’ll face the dilemma of whether being in Europe affects us at the end of the season, if it is a dilemma.”
Pardew, however, is aware that his team could be facing a wounded animal of sorts in Everton, who were dumped out of the FA Cup by Reading on Wednesday.
He said: “I’m expecting a typical game against Everton and a David Moyes side.”
“They are a good side full of quality players. Although he hasn’t had much to invest this year he has in the past and that’s left them with good players.”
“We’re all aware of that but we’re at home and expect to win.”
Pardew will be without suspended utility man Ryan Taylor, who is banned for three games after being sent off against Bolton Wanderers.
But he will have Shola Ameobi available after his cheekbone injury, with the big striker to wear a protective mask.
“Shola is getting more comfortable with his mask and there’s a chance he could be involved,” Pardew said.
And he could be joined by Aston Villa loanee Stephen Ireland if he shakes off a thigh problem.
Pardew added: “Stephen Ireland has come back and the injury he had when he arrived here has cleared up but he may have a slight thigh strain that rules him out.”
“When you come back from injury you get these little pulls and tugs and it might just keep him out at the weekend which would be a shame as he’s trained well.”
Joey Barton is a doubt with a thigh problem sustained in the warm-up against Bolton: “Joey is better but he’s 50-50,” Pardew said.