Yohan Cabaye says Newcastle United will know by the middle of January whether they are a contender for the Champions League.
United’s stunning winter form has lifted them into sixth in the top flight and raised hopes of mounting a serious challenge for Europe again – but the France midfielder is counselling caution as he looks at a festive period that can make or break their aspirations of a Champions League comeback. Cabaye admits that there are similarities with the way Newcastle sprung a major surprise by finishing fifth in 2012-13 but feels that the Christmas period will be the ultimate litmus test of their ambitions.
“There are similarities to two years ago, but it is too early to start getting carried away,” he said. Five wins out of the last six matches is a very good record, and hopefully at the end, we will have the same finish as we did two years ago.
“We can’t afford to think about the future too much at this stage.
“People might start talking about qualifying for Europe, or even the Champions League, but we can’t afford to think like that. The Christmas period is coming, and that is always an important period.
“If we are in the same position as now in the middle of January, then why not starting to look further forward? But we have to get there first.
“There are going to be a lot of games in the next month, and we will have to focus on our recovery between matches.
“We need to keep all the players as fit as we can, because that will help us play to our best, and that is the only way we can stay close to the top of the league.”
Cabaye will miss the visit of Mauricio Pochettino’s Southampton to St James’ Park through suspension but he feels that may be a good thing after admitting to feeling the first hint of fatigue at Manchester United on Saturday.
The Old Trafford goalscorer has been outstanding since the summer transfer window closed, leading his club back up the table while also helping France to book their place at the World Cup in difficult circumstances.
He said: “Maybe the suspension will prove to be a good thing.
“It will allow me to relax for a little bit because I have been very busy for the national team.
“I could feel myself starting to get a bit tired, so perhaps the next week will give me an opportunity to relax and get some treatment that I need.
“It is hard to play so many games, and maybe I need this break.”