Alan Pardew

By Dan King - Newcastle United Digital Editor

To be the best, you've got to beat the best and although Arsenal lost top spot in the Barclays Premier League to Manchester City on Saturday, Alan Pardew believes that Sunday's opponents have been the country's outstanding team so far this term.

But the Magpies manager has challenged his side to show just how good they are against the Gunners, who have led the way for most of the season in terms of both results and the quality of their football.

Arsene Wenger's squad would go back into pole position with three points at St. James' Park, but a Newcastle victory would put them just three points behind the North London outfit and, according to Pardew, have United revising their targets for the second half of the campaign.

That will be easier said than done, though, against the men from the Emirates, who won 3-1 at West Ham last time out.

"They've been the best team, I don't think anyone will argue with that," Pardew said.

"We've been on an incredible run - I'm not sure if any team's beaten that run over the last nine or ten games - even Arsenal.

"So we've set ourselves up for what will be an intriguing encounter and we'll probably know a little bit more about this team after Arsenal.

"I'd like to think that we're going to run them close - and if we can beat them then we'll have to seriously start looking at our aspirations for the year because we've obviously beat some good teams leading up to this,

"But I think where we are and the expectation and everything else will be different about that game.

"And one thing we're going to need is our crowd on that game because it could be the difference between winning and losing - and I'm not just making that as some throwaway line.

"It's going to be absolutely important that this place is rocking if we're going to win."