Ameobi pushing for Newcastle start

Shola Ameobi
Shola Ameobi scored against Bordeaux in midweek. Photo: PA

Newcastle strikers Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse have been warned not to take their places for granted as they prepare for Sunday's clash with Manchester United.

The Senegalese pair, who scored 29 goals between them last season, are both up and running once again with Ba having plundered six already during the current campaign and Cisse claiming his second in a little more than a week in Thursday night's 3-0 Europa League victory over Bordeaux.

However, while the African duo have been near certain starters for much of their time together on Tyneside, Pardew has warned them that 30-year-old Shola Ameobi, who captained the team against the Frenchmen, is a genuine threat to their continued partnership.

He said: "All our strikers have scored this week - Shola has scored, Demba has scored, Papiss has scored and if I am honest, Shola is playing at the same level as the other two and he is in contention to start this game.

"That's great news for us because it breeds competition.

"Shola is always desperate to play. Our fans now realise how important he is to us whereas I think in the past, they didn't.

"He is improving as he gets older. He is maturing like a good wine."

Ameobi, who set the ball rolling last night with his 13th European goal, has been forced to take a back seat for much of his career and has played understudy to the likes of Alan Shearer, Craig Bellamy, Patrick Kluivert, Mark Viduka, Michael Owen, Andy Carroll and now Ba and Cisse over the years.

However, now 30, he is desperate for regular first-team football and is determined to push the present incumbents as hard as possible.

Ameobi said with a smile: "I hope I'm not that old that I can't play two games in three or four days.

"The manager picks the team, but I am available and every time I pull on that shirt, I am trying to show him, I am trying to prove to him I am worth a starting place in the Premier League.

"I can only do what I can do, try to play as hard as I can and as well as I can. If he picks me, then fantastic, I'll be ready to go, that's for sure."

Sir Alex Ferguson's men, who beat the Magpies 2-1 in the Capital One Cup last week, will arrive on Tyneside desperate to gain revenge for their 3-0 Premier League defeat there last season, a night which stands out in Pardew's mind.

He said: "It was probably the stand-out result from our season and we are very proud of that. But that's history and gone now. It's about this game.

"We could have done with an easier fixture to keep our rhythm going. It's hard to get a rhythm against Manchester United.

"They pass the ball so well and they have such great players that it's difficult. But in terms of momentum, we couldn't go into it in a better mode."

Pardew is likely to restore Steve Harper, who was used as a second-half substitute after Rob Elliot picked up a groin injury, Davide Santon, Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba to his starting line-up after resting them last night.

The fact that he was able to do so and still pick up such a commanding victory represented a major boost for a club which had previously struggled to rediscover its best form this season.