By Andrew Robinson | Premier League, hopefully
The mighty Newcastle that took the Premier League by surprise last season and almost sneaked into a Champions League spot seem to have disappeared.
Alan Pardew’s side have been replaced by a sorry-looking squad that can’t cope with seemingly constant stream of fixtures heading their way, particularly over the Christmas period.
The only thing that has kept their head above water this year is the presence of Demba Ba, and the Senegalese striker is heading for the exit door at St James’ Park.
Pardew and the Toon faithful are waving bye bye to Demba as he makes his way down the M1 to London and the riches of Mr Abramovich, all for just £7.5 million.
He missed the Magpies’ home loss against Everton last night to discuss a deal at Stamford Bridge. Even though our friend Mr Benitez has remained very coy on the matter, Ba is almost certain to be a Chelsea player, maybe in time for the weekend game against Stoke – which will delight the Potters fans.
Pardew was pretty candid last night “I don’t think he will be coming back; I think the deal will get done. We can move on – we’re a massive club here. This club is bigger than any player, for sure,” he said.
But is it? With their top goalscorer leaving the club, what does the rest of the season hold.
Well in the short-term, the Toon could be heading into crucial January relegation clashes with Norwich, Reading and Aston Villa hoping Papiss Cisse can reach the form he showed in the second half of last season.
Newcastle hover just two points above dropzone
Newcastle are 21/10 to sneak a win away at Norwich this weekend, but Chris Hughton will want to put one over on his former club and leave them deeper in the mire.
Losing Ba also means the Newcastle boss will be facing a very busy January, trying to add to his now pretty threadbare strikeforce, which consists of Cisse, Shola Ameobi, Adam Campbell and the troubled Nile Ranger.
While the side continue to plough on in the Europa League, there is a risk that domestic form will suffer. With the club hovering just two points of the dropzone it’s something Pardew can’t afford.
The Magpies are 7/1 with Paddy Power to leave through the trap door in May for another spell in the Championship.
Of course, a bit of wheeling and dealing in the window and the return of the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez could see Pardew’s side push on, and if you’re looking through black and white glasses, a Europa League triumph could be on the cards this season.
If you think Newcastle can pull it off, you can have a flutter on them to win the tournament at 33/1.
The next few weeks are make or break for the club. Have a good January, pick up some results and players and they could make mid table; fail and they could be dragged into a relegation scrap they may not be ready for.