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Newcastle boss Alan Pardew turns focus on league survival
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has warned his players to forget about their Europa League heroics and concentrate on the task of dragging themselves to Barclays Premier League safety.
The Magpies booked a last-16 clash with big-spending Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala next month with a 1-0 victory over Metalist Kharkiv in Ukraine on Thursday night. However, despite his delight at the win, Pardew swiftly turned his attention to Sunday's visit of former club Southampton to St James' Park.
Asked if Europe now had to be put to one side for the time being, Pardew said: "Yes, for sure. We have got two very important Premier League games and if we could get three, four points out of those two games, I would take that now. It would give us a good angle to go into the next phase of the Europa League."
Newcastle currently sit in 16th place in the table, just four points better off than Reading inside the bottom three and Pardew is well aware that advantage could have all but disappeared by the time his side kicks off on Sunday afternoon.
The game has added spice for him as he was summarily dismissed from his job as Saints manager by chairman Nicola Cortese in August 2010 after 13 months in charge.
A similar same fate befell successor Nigel Adkins in January, although the south coast club's fortunes have taken a turn for the better since the appointment of Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino as his replacement.
Southampton have collected four of the last six points on offer, the last three from a stunning 3-1 home victory over champions Manchester City, and Pardew is under no illusions as to how difficult a game it will be having seen his side lose 2-0 at the St Mary's Stadium in November.
He said: "It's going to be dear to my heart to win this game, trust me, so I won't be pulling any punches in my dressing room. But that's easier said than done. Southampton have definitely picked up and they play a high pressing game which we are going to have to combat."
Striker Shola Ameobi emerged a matchwinner, calmly stroking home the 64th-minute penalty which ensured Newcastle's progression, but is likely to be among the substitutes once again on Sunday with Frenchman Yoan Gouffran, who is ineligible in Europe, ready to resume after recovering from a badly-gashed shin.
Ameobi said: "It is difficult for me. When you try to establish yourself in the team, you play one week, then have three out. But it's important to know that it is not about me - it is about the team. That always comes first."
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