NEWCASTLE United may not be in FA Cup action this weekend – but boss Alan Pardew insists they have 13 finals of their own still to play.
Pardew’s players have been given the weekend off ahead of the visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers to Tyneside on February 25.
That fixture is followed by the biggest game of the season, the Tyne-Wear derby at St James’s Park on March 4.
Newcastle were beaten 5-0 by in-form Tottenham Hotspur in their last outing, but despite that disappointing result, the club is sixth in the Premier League, and just a point off the Champions League places.
And a return to European competition after an absence of five years is the aim for the squad, who Pardew insists will be treating every game between now and the end of the campaign as a “cup final”.
“We’ll be ready to go again next week – we’ve got 13 cup finals between now and the end of the season,” Pardew told the Gazette.
“I’ve given the players the weekend off. They’ll rest and do what they’ve got to do, and Papiss (Demba Cisse) will be able to bring a few more clothes to Newcastle!
“We’ll regroup on Monday ahead of two very, very important fixtures. We’ve got Wolves, and then we’ve got the derby.
“The mood in the camp’s very much one of putting the Spurs game behind us. I’ve every confidence we’ll do that.”
Pardew will have Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye and Ryan Taylor back for the Wolves games.
“We’ll have Cheik, Yohan and Ryan back for Wolves,” added Pardew. “They’re three very important players.
“Ryan will train on Monday. He’s had a fantastic season so far, and I’m sure he’ll carry that form on to the end of the season.”
Meanwhile, Wolves are hopeful of having a new manager in place by the time they take on Newcastle, with Alan Curbishley the bookmakers’ favourite to succeed Mick McCarthy.
McCarthy was sacked after last weekend’s 5-1 home defeat to local rivals West Bromwich Albion.
United overcame Queens Park Rangers last month on what was Mark Hughes’s first game in charge after Neil Warnock’s dismissal, and Pardew’s confident his side will be up to the challenge, whoever’s in the dugout.
A change in manager invariably means a change in tactics and team selection, but Newcastle’s preparation will cover all bases.
Pardew said: “I’m pretty confident we’ll be prepared. Alan Curbishley’s someone I know very well, and if he gets the job, we’ll have an idea how they’ll play.”