x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Newcastle keeper Tim Krul looks forward to return of Demba Ba

He backs his side, who play Aston Villa on Sunday, to finish in the top six of the Premier League table.

Tim Krul, the Newcastle goalkeeper.
Tim Krul, the Newcastle goalkeeper.

Tim Krul, the Newcastle United goalkeeper, believes his team can maintain their current form and clinch a top-six finish.

Newcastle climbed to fifth place in the Premier League table as a result of a hard-fought victory over Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Wednesday night. They fell to sixth after Arsenal beat Blackburn on Saturday.

The run has confounded those who expected them to slide down the table after their 11-game unbeaten start to the season ended.

"We really want to push on for the second half of the season because we are up there and the chance is there," Krul said.

"We have got a fantastic squad and if we can prove we are a top-six team at the end of the season, that will attract more players to the club and then we can really push on."

Alan Pardew's squad will be boosted for Sunday's game against Aston Villa by their sole January signing, the former Freiburg striker Papiss Demba Cisse, who is available for the first time following his return, along with the 15-goal leading scorer Demba Ba, from Senegal's ill-fated African Cup of Nations campaign.

The Ivory Coast midfielder Cheik Tiote is still playing in Africa, and when he returns in a few weeks the Magpies will be stronger still.

Krul said: "Demba has been amazing, and to get his mate with him, that's a bonus and I am looking forward to seeing them both back. Hopefully Cheik won't be too much longer because he is a fantastic player for us as well."

Darren Bent, the Aston Villa striker, netted his 100th top-flight goal against QPR in midweek and hopes to add another goal on Sunday to celebrate his 28th birthday on Monday. The striker can expect a hot reception from the Newcastle fans after his spell at local rivals Sunderland.

"It would be fantastic to win on Sunday ahead of my birthday on Monday," he said. "That would make it extra special."