Alan Pardew

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Having mixed and matched his squad at times during the Europa League group stages, Alan Pardew has pledged to "attack" the knockout stages of the competition starting with Thursday night's round of 32 first leg against Metalist Kharkiv.

United finished second in Group D despite Pardew fielding some of his fringe players as he balanced continental challenges with the bread and butter of the Barclays Premier League.

And while he's well aware that Newcastle need to pick up more points in the league, he feels his squad is now better equipped to challenge on two fronts after signing six players during the January transfer window.

The Magpies manager has vowed that his starting XI will be "as strong as it can be" against their Ukrainian opponents and explained: "Although we know we're still in a situation where we need to win Premier League games, it gives us a little bit of breathing space to attack this competition which we've always had in our mind that we could do that.

"We left it late to win two out of the last three but at least we got there in the end. It gives us a platform, and we've got a squad that's so much bigger. Even if we had some injuries now, we can cover them whereas before we didn't have that luxury.

"So we can enter the rest of this competition with a strong hand."

But while the strength of his own squad has increased since Newcastle's last European game in early December, so has the quality of the sides United will now face. 

And Pardew said: "We're going up a level in terms of opposition. No disrespect to Bordeaux, who won our group, but I think Metalist are a little bit stronger than them and this is a huge test for us.

"I think being at home in the second leg is always an advantage - you've got the possibility of extra time and penalties on your home ground - but I think the advantage we may have is we don't have a game at the weekend.

"That helps us enormously."

Tickets are still available for Thursday's game, and can be purchased by clicking here