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Magpies flying high

Newcastle United maintained their unlikely push for a Champions League place with a 3-0 win over Stoke City at St James Park. With Arsenal and Chelsea drawing, Newcastle took advantage, and when Tottenham lost at QPR, Newcastle held on to fourth place.

It was a superb performance from Alan Pardew’s team, marked by excellent goals from Papiss Demba Cissé and Yahan Cabaye (twice). With Fabricio Coloccini marshalling a Magpies defence that has gone more than 6 hours since it last conceded a goal, the team certainly doesn’t look like it would be embarrassed by a European place.

"It's been a great season," Pardew said. "We targeted the last 10 games to see if we could be in and around it. Now we've just got four left and we'll try and win every one of them." Those games include matches against Manchester City and Chelsea, so it would be rash to predict a top four finish.

Newcastle have a very well-balanced side with Cissé and Demba Ba leading the attack, Cabaye and Haten Ben Arfa offering creativity and menace, while Cheik Tiote anchors the midfield. Pardew has blended astute signings with young players, and the results have been immediately impressive.

Pardew’s biggest challenge may come in the summer when he attempts to hold on to all his talented players. Owner Mike Ashley has not always been able to resist substantial offers, although the £35 million the club received from Liverpool for Andy Carroll last summer should have brought Pardew plenty of bargaining power.

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