Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is hoping a difficult season could yet end in glory.
The Magpies head into Thursday night's Europa League second-leg clash with Metalist Kharkiv in Ukraine bidding for a place in the last 16, but still fighting to keep their heads above water in the Barclays Premier League. Pardew's men face a vital league fixture against Southampton at St James' Park on Sunday.
But but he is confident the troubles of the first half of the campaign can be put firmly behind them, and the 51-year-old said: "There's a possibility that this could still be a great season. If I look at my best team, I would feel confident putting my best team up against any team left in this competition."
He added: "I've not really had that opportunity. We are a lot stronger now. Therefore if we get through this tie, we have as good a chance as anyone else."
Newcastle's lowly Premier League position is a source of mystery to Metalist boss Myron Markevich, and Pardew was also questioned about the disparity between the current season and the last one, at the end of which they sat in fifth place in the table.
It is a question he has answered many times in recent months, but he is more convinced than ever that a corner has been turned.
He said: "We have been disrupted this year with a lot of our key players missing. Probably this is as strong as I have been with players that I have available. I feel we are a lot stronger than the league position suggests.
"We had a lot of things go our way last year to finish in fifth place, but it was an excellent momentum that we had gained.
"We became a side that was resilient - we haven't got that resilience this year. But there is a renewed belief in the squad from the introduction of the new players, particularly [Moussa] Sissoko, [Yoan] Gouffran and Mapou [Yanga-Mbiwa], who will play tomorrow.
"Therefore, our season will be determined by two things: firstly, progression in this competition and secondly, our Premier League position, which I think we can improve dramatically - hopefully."