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A few eyebrows were raised when Alan Pardew took over the manager`s chair at Newcastle United but under his stewardship the side have consolidated a mid table position.
With eight games to go before the end of the season, just how far can the club push on? Can Newcastle reach for a Europa cup place or are they destined for a mid table position at the end of May?
There are no easy games in English Premiership Football these days and Newcastle United certainly have a tricky run in to the end of the season. March has been a disjointed month and like many clubs, Newcastle will have their fixture calendar decimated by FA Cup ties and Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Their remaining March fixture sees Pardew`s men travel to Stoke City who are flying high after reaching the FA Cup semi final. Stoke are an unpredictable side and may have Wembley on their minds this time round. Newcastle should at least be looking for a point from this game.
After the sparse March calendar, there are only three games scheduled for April and the Magpies kick off the month by hosting Wolves. Mick McCarthy`s men have enjoyed a change in fortunes recently but with home advantage, Newcastle should prove too strong for them. A week later, United travel to Aston Villa and with premiership survival seemingly assured, Houllier`s men should be there for the taking.
April ends with a trip to Bloomfield Road to take on Ian Holloway`s Blackpool. Once again, their opponents have been inconsistent to say the least and the result of this game could depend on which Blackpool team turns up. If Charlie Adam is back in their ranks after injury, they should be a tough prospect and a point would be a good outcome.
Newcastle round off the season with four fixtures in May and these include difficult away ties at Chelsea and at Liverpool, where they may well run into their former striker Andy Carroll. Although both teams have enjoyed mixed results this season, Liverpool and Chelsea are hitting form at the right time and you feel any points from these two games would be a bonus.
United`s two home games see them take on two more relegation candidates in Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion and although these will be testing fixtures, six points from those two should be a realistic target for Alan Pardew and his side.
Much has been made of the departure of Carroll and the likely effect that it would have on Newcastle`s season. However, many argue that the reverse has happened and that this has, in fact, galvanised the rest of the team. There was no better display of Newcastle`s quality than their dramatic comeback against Arsenal that rescued a point with a 4-4 draw.
It`s not unrealistic to expect Newcastle United to achieve at least 14 points from their remaining games. Such a return would see them in Europa Cup contention and although it will be a tough battle, there are many soccer pundits offering free footy tips prepared to agree that European Football is within Newcastle`s reach.