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Alan Pardew believes that an English club will win this year's Europa League, ending the country's poor record in the competition.
Newcastle, Tottenham and Chelsea could yet make it through to the final eight of a competition that - in its various guises - has been won only twice by clubs from England in the last 30 years. The significance of that is perhaps greater now given the Premier League elite's struggles in the Champions League this season.
“Outside Manchester United, the Premier League has not been of the standard of last year,” Pardew said. “The group that's below the top four is getting stronger, with Everton, Spurs and ourselves. Although our league place doesn't justify that, I think next year we'll be competing in that [group].
“The depth of the Premier League is in no doubt, and if I was a betting man I think the winners of the Europa League could come from England this year because the three that are left can concentrate on it, they are not going for the title and the experience gained so far is helping.
“Yes, we have a responsibility for not just Newcastle fans but for the Premier League as well. We represent the Premier League and are proud to do so. We'll try to do that if we can to the best of our ability.”
Newcastle face Anzhi Makhachkala at St James' Park tonight, after holding the Russian side to a goalless draw in Moscow last week. “We've had a tough season so it would be nice for the fans to think we could win the trophy,” Pardew added.
“I think we can. You need a few things to drop for you but I've looked at the other teams left and we can win it. We've got enough quality and enough players fit. In the FA Cup and League Cup we had to play sides that weren't good enough for this club. We know we're up against some good opposition this time.
“We've approached this competition as a significance of our league achievement last season. We're in it to win it. Getting to the last eight wouldn't mean much otherwise.
“I've been to a cup final twice and lost and I see this as a higher standard [than the FA Cup] and I want to win trophies, so we have a big agenda in front of us. We're really looking forward to tomorrow's game and the spirit in the camp is terrific so we will go into the game on the front foot as we always do.
“The standard will go up again in the next round, but whoever goes through from this tie has a chance of winning the competition, I've no doubt about that.” – The Independent