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Talk of the Toon Cisse key to Newcastle ambitions

STAR MAN: Papiss Cisse (centre) is mobbed by team mates after his wonder strike against Chelsea

FOR CHELSEA and Newcastle, this weekend provides a crucial phase for their season’s ambitions.

The former will be excused for thinking that finishing outside of the top four represents a failure. However, the promise of domestic and European silverware represents a tantalising prize, which Roberto Di Matteo will view as more than just compensation.

Newcastle on the other hand are threatening to gatecrash the top four party, and hosting title chasing Manchester City on Sunday could show just how real the Magpies ambitions are.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew promised a reaction after his team's mauling at the hands of Wigan last Saturday, and at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening, Newcastle and Papiss Cisse in particular delivered.

The Senegal striker hit a delicious opener for the Magpies, but that merely served as an appetiser for the feast of football that was to follow. Chelsea have been in remarkable form since Di Matteo took over from Andre Villas Boas in early March, but he and the rest of us at a packed Stamford Bridge were left in awe of Cisse who has now taken his goal tally to a remarkable 13 goals in 12 games.

When Davide Santon surged from his left back position, Chelsea had enough players in defence to counter any danger. Santon however fed Cisse, who took one touch with his right foot to hit a volley to exquisitely finish with his left and past the helpless Petr Cech for the opener on 19 minutes.

Stamford Bridge marvelled at Cisse, a player that unless you had been watching French or German football would not have been on anyone’s radar prior to his January arrival in the north east.

Cisse however was not finished just yet. With the clock ticking down, substitute Ryan Taylor’s throw found fellow substitute Shola Ameobi who chested the ball into the path of Cisse, and from the sharpest of angles, and 20 yards from goal, Newcastle’s goal machine let fly with a beauty of a right foot volley, whose trajectory was too good for Cech, to leave Pardew dancing in delight on the touchline, and at the final whistle, full of praise for his striker.

“It was a great moment in the game and a great moment for us after 18 games here without a win. It is a great achievement. I'm very proud of the players and they should be very proud of themselves,” said Pardew.

“It was just an astonishing goal, something really special. I thought we were going to get home with that 1-0 lead but Papiss has taken a chance. You could see he meant it and he caught it absolutely true.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the highlights video of our season because there will be some great goals on there, " he continued.

With their sights firmly fixed on a Champions League spot, Pardew accepted that his side will not be overawed when title chasing Manchester City come calling on Sunday.

“We are looking forward to Manchester City coming to Newcastle on Sunday. It's going to be a special day for us and our club. The team going for the title is playing a team trying to get into the top four and if somebody had told you that before the start of the season you wouldn't have believed them."

After defeat, Di Matteo accepted that Chelsea’s Champions League ambitions could rest solely on the Blues lifting Europe’s elite club cup trophy in Munich come May 19, which will then mean only a Europa Cup berth for the side finishing in fourth place.

"It's going to be difficult now for us, ( to finish fourth) we're obviously behind. The season has proven difficult but we will keep pushing and we won't give up. We've lost many points during this season at many places, and looking back over the whole season that's why we are in the position we are,” said Di Matteo who also saluted the Magpies’ efforts.

“We've been pushing the players very hard and they've responded extremely well. We have to give credit to Newcastle, they played a good game against us. In the first half we couldn't raise our tempo to where we needed to be to dominate the game.

"The second half was much better, we pushed Newcastle back into their half and created a few chances, had one cleared off the line but Newcastle did well tonight, they defended well and scored two goals, ” accepted the Blues’ manager who will now have to lift his side for Saturday’s FA Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley stadium.

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