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Mar 5, 2013

Pardew: Anzhi is a step up in class

Newcastle will have to raise their game significantly if they are to progress from their Europa League last-16 tie with Anzhi Makhachkala, according to Alan Pardew.

• Cisse hails 'idol' Eto'o
• Coloccini out of Anzhi clash

The club head out to Russia on the back of an impressive away performance in Ukraine as they accounted for Metalist Kharkiv in the previous round, thanks to Shola Ameobi's penalty.

But with their Premier League status still to be confirmed, sitting just six points above the drop zone, Pardew says his side will have to deal with a noticeable step up in class against Guus Hiddink's charges.

He said: "It would be massive if we could beat this team because they are a really strong side. It's really now down to where every team left in that Europa League now is focusing on it probably as their primary objective.

"I can't think of too many clubs in it for whom it's not at the top of their agenda, so there's now a real focus on that competition.''

Newcastle's recent form has taken a turn for the better since their signing of five French players during the transfer window but they still have work to do to secure their top flight status next season.

Pardew insisted after Saturday's defeat at Swansea - their first in six games - United had enough to avoid relegation but with thousands of miles to travel, and a game with Stoke at St James' Park on Sunday, their schedule does them no favours.

Neither might the playing surface in Russia; the teams will battle it out on the artificial surface at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. Anzhi stage all their European games in Moscow due to security concerns over playing at the club's Dagestan home.

Hiddink's side possess undoubted talent, former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o spearheading their attack, with Brazilian Willian and ex-Chelsea and Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra among their number.

Hiddink will know Newcastle from his brief spell in England, when he guided Chelsea to a 2-0 league victory at St James' Park in April 2009 in the first game of Alan Shearer's brief reign as manager.

The Magpies, of course, were relegated a few weeks later and only four of the 14 players who took part in that game - Steve Harper, Ryan Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez - remain on the Tyneside books. Of that quartet, only Gutierrez is likely to be involved in Moscow because of injuries to the others.

However, Pardew will be able to call upon a trio of men who more than most have led the fightback which has eased the club's domestic fears in recent weeks.

The return of defender Steven Taylor from injury and the recruitment of Toulouse midfielder Moussa Sissoko have been crucial, as has playmaker Yohan Cabaye's resumption after groin surgery.

Pardew said: "He (Cabaye) has been the most influential player we have had on return, closely followed by Steven and Moussa. Those three really have lifted the club massively.''

Information from the Press Association was used in this report

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