The Blues finished below Alan Pardew’s side last season, after the Magpies enjoyed a strong period which saw them qualify for the Europa League. But England defender Baines insists that maintaining such progress is not so straight-forward – as tonight's opponents have proved so far this time around. He said:
“It does put in context how difficult it is to stay up there in a sense. They had a brilliant season last time around but it’s difficult to sustain it and do it over a course of four or five seasons like we’ve been doing.
“I think maybe some people thought that was it, they were going to be there every year. Now they’re scratching their heads wondering what they’re doing wrong because Alan Pardew is probably doing the same things he did last year. We’ve been there, like in the early stages of the last few seasons when you’re just not quite sure what’s going wrong. It’s difficult. You just need to start winning games somehow and that’s what they need to start doing – and what they’ll be looking to do at their place. It’ll be a tough game.
“I think we do get the credit more now. People acknowledge what we do. I think you can use teams like Newcastle as a comparison to see just how difficult it is. Great last year, struggling this year. Just over the last few years we haven’t had those bigger dips. It’s not to say it’ll never happen because if you let your standards slip it will.
“But even when we’ve struggled at the start we’ve found a way and that’s the one thing we’ve always done. We’ll find a way. Whether it’s when we’re at our bare bones or whatever we’ll come up with something at the end, and I do think people are starting to give us the acknowledgement for doing a good job.”