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Newcastle United v Bolton Wanderers: Preview
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is hoping the retention of midfielder Cheick Tiote will form the basis of a bright new future for the team.
The 24-year-old Ivory Coast international has put pen to paper on a six-and-a-half-year deal just seven months after joining the club from Dutch side FC Twente.
Tiote's superb form at St James' Park has alerted a series of suitors and sparked speculation that Manchester United and Chelsea among others were preparing summer bids for him.
The fact that striker Andy Carroll left Tyneside last month in a £35million switch to Liverpool a little more than three months after signing a new five-year deal will not be lost on the club's fans, and the news that Jose Enrique and Joey Barton have put their own contract talks on hold until the end of the season remains a concern.
However, Pardew, who has also tied up assistant John Carver on a five-and-a-half-year contract, is confident securing Tiote's future represents a firm statement of intent from owner Mike Ashley and the latest phase of his blueprint for lasting success.
He said: "Negotiations are very, very difficult at this level of football, and I think the signing of Cheick underpins the message Mike wants to give, that we can build a young team here which can go forward and take the club forward.
"Cheick is a big part of that and after the disappointment of Andy leaving, it's a very good statement.
"Mike wanted to make a statement after Andy leaving that the future can be bright here, and signing Cheick is a big step forward because he's had a fabulous first season.
"Hopefully now we can build on his signing with others.
"That's something we have got to resolve between now and the end of the season to make sure we keep our best players, and hopefully we can manage to do that.
"Negotiations are never easy and never straightforward, but we are trying to keep what we have here, the really strong parts of the team, together."
Tiote and his team-mates will look to build upon a run of eight Barclays Premier League games which has brought just one defeat when they head into battle with Bolton.
The Magpies were trounced 5-1 at the Reebok Stadium in November, but have since eased themselves to within touching distance of securing their top-flight status, although Pardew insists there is no room for relaxation.
Striker Peter Lovenkrands is a doubt with a thigh strain, and Nile Ranger and Shefki Kuqi are standing by.
Bolton manager Owen Coyle is determined to see striker Ivan Klasnic at his physical peak to match his new-found mental edge.
The last 10 days could prove to be a turning point for Klasnic in his career with Bolton, with the Croatian scoring the winner in FA Cup ties at Wigan and Fulham to send the club into the sixth round.
Sandwiched in between was confirmation from Greater Manchester Police that he would not face charges over the alleged rape of a teenage girl following an investigation dating back to October.
Given Klasnic has also had a number of injury niggles this season, after joining Bolton in the summer on a permanent deal from Nantes, the worst would now appear to be behind him.
With Coyle's confidence in Klasnic unwavering, all he now requires of the 31-year-old is for him to get himself fully fit.
"He has been stop-start with injuries this season, and people have forgotten about that," said Coyle on Klasnic, who has yet to start a Barclays Premier League game this campaign.
"But it's fair to say that mentally he is now in a very good place, and physically he is very close to his maximum.
"We know he is a quality goalscorer. That is not even up for debate. That desire to score goals is there.
"What we have to make sure is that Ivan is physically at his very best, that he has that sharpness, and he is getting there bit by bit."
Coyle will make one definite change, with Jussi Jaaskelainen to return in goal ahead of Adam Bogdan who was used in the cup ties.
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