Cabaye keeping quiet on Champions League
Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye is refusing to contemplate the prospect of a Champions League adventure as the season approaches its climax. Yesterday's 3-0 Premier League victory over Stoke, coupled with Chelsea's 0-0 draw at Arsenal and Tottenham's 1-0 defeat at QPR, saw the Magpies climb into fourth place with four games remaining.
They are three points adrift of Arsenal in third and have a game in hand on the Gunners, although that fixture is at Stamford Bridge. However, with title-chasing Manchester City and Everton also waiting in the wings, Cabaye is looking no further ahead than next Saturday's trip to Wigan, who are fighting for their lives at the other end of the table.
The Frenchman said: "We have got big confidence on the pitch. We just want to keep going. The next thing is to be focused on the Wigan match. That's the most important thing. After, we can see what happens, but we have to think match by match. We can do something special for the team."
In truth, Cabaye and his team-mates have already done something special. Newcastle finished last season, their first back in the top flight, in 12th place, and had targeted the top ten this time around. A sixth successive win took them to 62 points, 16 more than they managed in the entirety of the last campaign and their highest tally since the 2002/03 season when they finished third with 69.
Manager Alan Pardew freely admits they should not be anywhere near challenging for the top four at this stage in their development, but his players do not appear to be listening. Having demolished Stoke 3-1 at the Britannia Stadium earlier in the season courtesy of a Demba Ba hat-trick, they set about them with some relish once again, although this time, Cabaye was the architect.
The Frenchman, who won a domestic double with Lille last season, turned in arguably his best display for the club with an exhibition of acute vision and precise passing, but also helped himself to two goals before heading for the dressing room with a minor ankle injury with 61 minutes played.
It was he who opened the scoring after 14 minutes when, after Papiss Cisse had headed against the bar from Hatem Ben Arfa's inviting cross, he nodded home the rebound. The second goal arrived within four minutes, and was a thing of breathtaking beauty and simplicity.
Cabaye spotted Cisse's run so early that his manager had not even seen it from the sideline, and the ball he played into the striker's path was so exquisite that he had only to steer it left-footed past keeper Asmir Begovic to claim his 11th goal in ten games.
Having squandered a 2-0 lead at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier in the season, the Magpies were in no mood to do it again and the points were secured 12 minutes after the break when Cabaye capped an individual display of some distinction with an artful curling finish from the edge of the box. Asked about his £4.8m summer signing's performance, Pardew said simply: "Sublime, wasn't he."
Stoke huffed and puffed in their efforts to regain a measure of pride, but had Begovic not clawed out two powerfully-struck Cheick Tiote efforts at the death, the margin of victory could have been even more commanding. Pardew said: "It was a very important victory because it puts us on 62 points, a position we would never even have dreamt about, and with four games left too.
"We are in a terrific situation, the stadium is full up, there are 52,000 absolutely loving it and we are playing some fantastic football. The most important thing now is just to keep it going. But there is a great camaraderie in the team, there's great spirit in the city and in the dressing room and from [owner] Mike Ashley down, everybody can be proud of the jobs they are doing."
Stoke boss Tony Pulis was philosophical in defeat as he reflected on a remarkable period in the club's recent history. He said: "We are getting a little bit greedy. We have been in the Premier League now for four years, we were nice and comfortable with six or seven games to go.
"We have been to three quarter-finals of the FA Cup, we have been to a quarter-final of the League Cup, we have been to a semi-final of the FA Cup, we have been to a final of the FA Cup, we got to the last 30 in Europe. It's been not a bad four years, and we mustn't get greedy."