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Newcastle United v Arsenal: Preview
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is confident his players will put the furore surrounding Andy Carroll's £d35million move to Liverpool to one side at they attempt to secure their top-flight status.
Fans have reacted angrily to the 22-year-old's departure for Anfield during the final hours of the January transfer window, with some blaming the club for allowing him to leave and others venting their fury on the player for turning his back on the Magpies.
Pardew, whose side host Arsenal, said: "Unfortunately, it's one of those things that isn't going to go away for a long period, I shouldn't think.
"We have to deal with that and we have to cope with that. It's not about one player, of course, it's about Newcastle United and we have to be resilient, be strong in our minds that it isn't going to affect us.
"If we start thinking it will, then it most certainly is going to.
"But I just feel the emphasis of the team and the group is strong towards the club, and you will see that in the performance they put out.
"I have no doubt that we will do everything we can to try to beat a very, very good Arsenal team."
The mood on Tyneside was not helped in the immediate aftermath of Carroll's exit by skipper Kevin Nolan, a boyhood Liverpool fan, conducting an interview with the Reds' official television station in which he spoke of his delight for his close friend.
Nolan, who will lead his side into battle against Arsenal at St James' Park, has since apologised for any offence he caused, and insisted he remains as committed as ever to Newcastle.
He told the Journal: "I want to be here. I want to play for this club. If fans don't like what I said, I apologise.
"It was never meant to upset them, but Liverpool is a great club. I will say it again, everyone knows it.
"I am getting sick of the Andy Carroll saga. I want to put it to bed and get on with it.
"The last thing I want to do is start upsetting our fans. They have been brilliant all season, as they were last."
Pardew is equally keen to put the Carroll story behind him, to the extent that, asked how difficult the last week had been, he chose to interpret that as a question about Wednesday night's 1-0 defeat at Fulham.
He now faces the task of selecting and preparing a team to attempt an unlikely league double over the Gunners - Carroll, inevitably, scored the winner in November.
With Shola Ameobi awaiting surgery on a fractured cheekbone, he must do so with a frontline comprising Leon Best, Nile Ranger and Peter Lovenkrands, although he will at least be able to call upon key midfielder Cheik Tiote, back after a ban.
Arsenal striker Robin van Persie is "100% confident" Manchester United will drop points as the race for the Barclays Premier League title hots up - but warned that will count for nothing if Arsenal do not maintain their own form with victory at Newcastle.
The Gunners head into this weekend's fixtures still within striking distance of the leaders after they came from behind to beat Everton 2-1, while United made it 24 league games without defeat as a double from Wayne Rooney helped them defeat Aston Villa.
Sir Alex Ferguson takes his men to bottom club Wolves at Molineux - a venue where Chelsea have already come unstuck earlier in the season.
Next up is the small matter of the Manchester derby at Old Trafford, while United head to Stamford Bridge on March 1 and then Anfield five days later with a showdown against the Gunners at Emirates Stadium set for the end of April.
While Van Persie believes United, currently five points clear, face a tough ask to collect maximum returns from all those key fixtures, the Dutchman accepts first and foremost Arsenal must deliver consistency themselves.
"It is vital to just keep looking at yourself," Van Persie told Arsenal TV Online.
"We all know United's schedule, we know Chelsea's schedule, but the main thing is to just look at our own.
"We have got a tough opponent now at Newcastle away, and so we only need to look at that."
The Dutch striker continued: "I am confident Manchester United will drop points, 100%, because they have big games coming up - they have their own derby, they have games against Chelsea, other big games, so we will see what is going to happen.
"We just have to stick to ourselves and I am confident we can fight until the end."
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