Newcastle United's Premier League Survival Outweighs Europa League Glory

Brian GrammanContributor IIIApril 4, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 30:  Newcastle United Manager Alan Pardew reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium on March 30, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

It's been 44 years since Newcastle United won a major trophy.

At this point, the Toon Army won't exactly be surprised if the club can't win the Europa League this season, especially with Portuguese giants Benfica drawn as their opponent in the quarterfinals.

Relegation from the Premier League, however, is an entirely different story, and manager Alan Pardew must recognize that surviving in England's top flight is much more important than Europe's second competition.

Newcastle are only three points clear of No. 18 Aston Villa, and with only seven Premier League fixtures left in the 2012-13 campaign, "relegation" is once again rearing its filthy, ugly head for the Magpies.

After spending the 2009-10 season in the Championship, Newcastle know better than anyone that even the supposedly big clubs can suffer the drop.

And with the grueling Premier League schedule already having taken its toll on many of Alan Pardew's players, the Newcastle manager must take care of his biggest stars in an already-busy April.

Moussa Sissoko, since coming to Tyneside from Ligue 1 side Toulouse in January, has been an excellent addition to the first team and is a main reason why Newcastle aren't in deeper hot water.

That being said, coming over to the Premier League and playing nearly every minute of every match can't have been easy, and for the Magpie midfielder to be at his best in an important match against Fulham on Sunday, resting him against Benfica would be an intelligent course of action.

Yohan Cabaye, skipper in Fabricio Coloccini's absence and the hunk of the North East, is too integral a piece to be rested entirely, but would substituting him at the hour mark be that big of a deal?

It shouldn't be, especially with the bench the Magpies currently possess.

Sylvain Marveaux is possibly the only Newcastle player this season who has earned more playing time than he has received, and filling out the attacking midfield role for Sissoko does nothing to hurt their chances in the Benfica match, while giving a great player a deserved break.

Shola Ameobi is an excellent European goalscorer, and he is an obvious replacement for Papiss Cisse here. Adam Campbell also could and should get a run-out at some point as a striker.

And while Vurnon Anita and James Perch are options next to Cabaye in the Magpies' usual 4-2-3-1, an excellent choice would be Gael Bigirimana.

Bigirimana is the last of a group of Newcastle's young players including Sammy Ameobi, Shane Ferguson and Mehdi Abeid, most of whom were supposedly close to ready for first-team action but when pressed in the squad due to injuries couldn't live up to expectations.

Ameobi, Ferguson and Abeid are now out on loan, but Bigirimana proved to Pardew that he was good enough to keep in the squad and continue to help the club now.

He ought to get a chance to do just that against Benfica.

The benefits greatly outweigh the risks of taking it easy in the Europa League. Playing some of the bench while avoiding too much of a dip in quality is the best option for a club still needing results in the Premier League.

And this year especially, relegation would be outright calamitous.