NO matter how much they say otherwise, Scott Parker insists his former club Newcastle United are in the race for Champions League qualification.
A good Friday for the Magpies has put them four points behind fourth-placed Spurs with six games left.
When Newcastle lost at Arsenal last month, manager Alan Pardew was adamant they were out of the running for a top-four finish. Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Parker does not see it that way.
“Newcastle might say they are not (in contention for the Champions League), but as far as we are concerned they are in the thick of it,” he said. “They have got to be top-four contenders when you get to this stage of the season in the position they are in. We consider them to be rivals.
“You wouldn’t have thought they would be in this position after we beat them 5-0 a few weeks ago, but they have gone about their business quite quietly and have been under the radar really until now.”
Newcastle have won their last four matches. They and Chelsea are both outside the top four at present but are the form horses of those vying for third and fourth position. “They have got a good squad and Alan Pardew has done a fantastic job,” Parker explained. “They are not up there by luck.”
Newcastle have a great advantage over Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal, in that they are not expected to qualify for club football’s most lucrative tournament.
Chelsea and Arsenal are regulars in the knockout stages. Tottenham played in last season’s competition, and have been the leading club outside of Manchester for much of this term’s Premier League.
Therefore, many would view failure to finish in the top four as a failure by Spurs.
“I wouldn’t really want to answer that question at the moment but I certainly hope that’s not going to be the case,” said Parker.
The Premier League’s top four qualify for various stages of the Champions League. The only exception will be if Chelsea win the European Cup but fail to finish in the top four. Under those circumstances, fourth will play in the Europa League, Newcastle’s stated aim in the final weeks.