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Top-four Toon push shocks Pardew

Alan Pardew

Alan Pardew has insisted Newcastle should be nowhere near competing for Champions League qualification.

The Magpies will secure a top-six Barclays Premier League finish and almost certainly earn a return to European football if they better seventh-placed Everton's result this weekend.

But as they welcome Stoke to Tyneside on Saturday a day before the Toffees head for title-chasing Manchester United, Pardew knows his fifth-placed side has punched above its weight all season, saying: "The Champions League is something that really we shouldn't be competing for, but we are, and we are going to go for that as best we can."

He added: "We are batting well above our level in terms of the teams and the salaries and transfer fees that these other clubs have paid. We shouldn't even be anywhere near them."

Newcastle head into the latest round of fixtures sitting level on points with Tottenham in fourth place and two better off than Champions League semi-finalists Chelsea.

The Blues' 1-0 first-leg victory over the mighty Barcelona last night left them with a foothold in the tie as they attempt to overturn the odds and reach the final - and if they were to lift the trophy and finish outside the top four, that would have major ramifications for the teams ahead of them.

In that scenario, only the top three places would yield either an automatic spot or a Champions League qualifier, with the prize for fourth a ticket for the Europa League.

Chelsea are already guaranteed at least a place in the lower-ranking competition because FA Cup final opponents Liverpool have already qualified by winning the Carling Cup - but should they win the domestic competition rather than the Champions League, and finish in the top five, that place would also be up for grabs.

Newcastle at least have momentum on their side having won each of their last five league games, and with in-form Wigan, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton waiting in the wings, they know extending that to six could be crucial to their hopes.

Pardew has been boosted too by the return of a series of players to training after injury, with Cheick Tiote, Danny Guthrie and James Perch all having shaken off knocks and been joined by longer-term absentees Gabriel Obertan, Leon Best and Sylvain Marveaux. Keeper Tim Krul did not train on Thursday, but he is expected to be available.