Can Newcastle Really Challenge for the Champions League?
The battle for the top four spots in the Premier League has become a far more hotly contested affair in recent seasons.
Many footballing fans will recall the Big Four's dominance of the past decade at the summit of the English top flight, but in recent years the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham have managed to penetrate those ranks, adding new life to what had become a somewhat mundane battle.
This season has been particularly intriguing, with City already all but guaranteeing themselves a Champions League place, and with Spurs' brilliant start to the campaign, it looks like for the first time in nearly 15 years two of the former Big Four sides will miss out.
In all the excitement of the Manchester teams' fight for the title, and the added factor of Spurs' top-four push, many people seem to be overlooking what has arguably been the success story of the 2011-12 Premier League season.
Having been in the second tier of English football just two seasons ago, Newcastle United have managed to claw their way back from the dead, and currently sit in the lofty heights of sixth place—level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea and just five points away from Spurs, who are in the final Champions League slot.
With recent form taken into account, there is nothing to say that Newcastle won't be able to topple the odds and break into the top four again for the first time since the glory days of Alan Shearer and Nolberto Solano.
Admittedly, the Newcastle side lacks players you would deem world class.
Yes, the likes of Demba Ba, Hatem Ben Arfa and the newly acquired Papiss Cisse from Freiburg are all players of immense quality that have proven their worth within the English league system.
Who deserves to qualify the most?
However, the real question is whether these players can compete with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs.
In my opinion, the answer is yes. Newcastle's players may not be technically as good as those of their rivals, but one thing that their adversaries have lacked this season (with Chelsea in particular springing to mind) is the unity of the team.
Newcastle are questionably the best team in the entire league this season.
By that I mean to say that they are the side who gel best and achieve the most in relation to the quality of players in their side.
It's easy for United and City to battle it out at the top when they have the depth of squad and talent that they do.
For Newcastle to achieve what they have done so far this year has been miraculous.
It is for this very reason that it would be foolish to completely rule the Magpies out of the race for third and fourth.
No one will dispute they are the rank outsiders of the four sides still in contention for the remaining two places, but if the Premier League has taught us anything over the past 20 years, it's that anything can happen.
If Newcastle do beat the odds, then players will need to be bought over the summer. As well as they work in the league, the Champions League is an extremely different arena for players to compete in.
In any case, good luck to Newcastle, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal.
And a big thank you from all neutral fans for making this one of the most interesting seasons in many a year.
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