Pardew praise for Tiote talent
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has cited Cheick Tiote's ability to mix it with the best as a major factor in the club's surge up the Barclays Premier League table.
The 27-year-old Ivory Coast international turned in a fine individual display in Saturday's 1-0 victory at Manchester United - the Magpies' first at Old Trafford in more than 41 years - just as he had done as Pardew's men defeated the Red Devils 3-0 at St James' Park in January last year.
Tiote has returned to somewhere near his best form in recent weeks after struggling along with many of his team-mates last season, and has been hugely influential in a run of five victories in six league games which has left his club just three points off a Champions League place.
The midfield enforcer's resurgence coincided with Pardew's decision to hand him the captain's armband in the absence of the injured Fabricio Coloccini, but it has shown no signs of waning since the Argentinian's return.
Pardew said: "I can reflect on the two Manchester United games - the 3-0 was the best performance he ever gave this football club, closely followed by that performance [on Saturday], so he can do it against the top clubs.
"When we drew 4-4 with Arsenal, that day he was unbelievable, so he has had some big, big games for us, don't forget about that.
"He is playing very well, though. I was very reluctant to take the captaincy from him after he did so well with it. But he has proved to me irrespective of whether he wears the armband or not, he is brilliant."
If Tiote has been the midfield rock upon which Newcastle's improvement has been based, the man in front of him has been no less influential.
France international Yohan Cabaye scored the winner at Old Trafford to further underline his talent, although the yellow card he collected means he will be missing as Newcastle attempt to extend their run of three home victories against Southampton on Saturday.
Cabaye's absence could mean a pivotal role for Dutchman Vurnon Anita, who was drafted into the side for the United game and did not let his manager down.
The 24-year-old former Ajax midfielder has had to remain patient since his B#6.7million switch to St James' in August 2012, but Pardew has kept a close eye on his development and is confident he can do a job for him.
He said: "It's been good for him because he has made himself stronger in the gym and he's had a little bit more time to reflect on some performances last year, where I think he struggled a little bit.
"This year, you have to pay tribute to him because he has been a lot, lot better and he is pushing for a place.
"I would expect him to get 20, 25 appearances this year and for a second year at a big club, that's a good start."
Asked if Anita would be asked to fill Cabaye's sizeable boots this weekend, the manager said: "I don't think there's any questionable doubt that he will start."
Meanwhile, Jay Rodriguez hopes to be part of Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad despite what the Southampton forward knows was a disappointing England debut.
The 24-year-old was last month given a surprise call-up along with club-mate Adam Lallana for the international friendly double-header at Wembley.
The uncapped pair both started in England's 2-0 defeat at the hands of Chile, with Lallana impressing enough to also begin the disappointing 1-0 home loss to Germany days later.
That was a match Rodriguez was forced to watch from the sidelines, with Hodgson not giving him any more minutes after a debut that led to criticism from some quarters.
However, such talk has had little impact on the former Burnley man, who appears to have cocooned himself away and focused on life with Southampton.
"I don't really listen to whether anyone says anything," Rodriguez said. "Obviously I wasn't happy with my performance in the game, but the experience was unbelievable for me.
"I took a lot of positives from that, but I would have obviously liked it to have gone better and to get the win. It was a hard game and I thought Chile played really well."
Lallana's displays have seen him widely tipped to be included in Hodgson's World Cup squad, but the same cannot be said for Rodriguez.
Some bookmakers price him at 10/1 to be on the plane to Brazil - the same odds as West Brom's uncapped Saido Berahino - but that will not stop the Southampton man trying.
"I think you've always got to set your targets as high as you can and I think that is the highest target you can try to achieve," Rodriguez said of a potential World Cup spot.
"It would be a great feeling to go to a World Cup, but I have a lot of hard work to do. I need to keep trying to improve as a player for Southampton."
Southampton could be without seven first-team players through injury.
Morgan Schneiderlin may not travel due to a pelvic complaint and, even if he does, is not fit enough for a full 90 minutes at St James' Park. Victor Wanyama, Nathaniel Clyne, Guly do Prado and Danny Fox are definitely sidelined, while Paulo Gazzaniga will again start in goal as Artur Boruc and back-up Kelvin Davis remain out.