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Newcastle would leapfrog Manchester United by beating struggling Everton when they kick off this weekend’s Premier League programme but Bernard has warned a stern test awaits

By Rob Stewart

These are just like the good old days for unbeaten Newcastle United with the Magpies poised to soar into second place in the Premier League ahead of their meeting with Everton at St James’ Park.

Alan Pardew’s side are certain to go into the game in buoyant mood following their 3-1 win at Stoke on Monday evening but Newcastle old boy Olivier Bernard has warned that his old club will face their sternest test so far this season against David Moyes’ team.

Bernard played on more than 100 occasions for Newcastle when the club was competing in the Champions League and Uefa Cup before injury brought a halt to his career and is now working for the Show Racism the Red Card campaign.

As Newcastle prepared to face Everton, the 32-year-old Frenchman gave the low-down on where he expects a game featuring many of his compatriots to be won and lost.

Demba Ba vs Sylvain Distin

"If my old Newcastle team-mate Sylvain Distin is told to take responsibility for Demba Ba then he will be up against the best man-to-man marking centre-half in England because in terms of one-on-ones he is formidable so this will be his toughest test in terms of physicality.

"Physically you can’t go wrong with Sylvain because he has the power and the pace to cope with any centre-forward, especially big players like Demba Ba. He is that tall that winning headers is not a problem for them but it is also difficult to sprint past him because he is so quick at getting back over those crucial three to five metres.

"If Demba Ba does manage to get past him he will have to make sure that he gets his shot off as quickly as possible and doesn’t take too many touches because otherwise Sylvain will be in there to nick the ball back for his team or get in a tackle.

"Demba is looking really sharp. The last month has been brilliant for him and Newcastle but Sylvain will make sure that this is the biggest test they will have faced because Everton are physically very strong but they play good football as well and are well organised."

Yohan Cabaye vs Jack Rodwell

"In France there was a lot of talk that Yohan Cabaye was destined for a big Champions League club such as Arsenal but I think he decided to leave Lille for Newcastle because he was more likely to secure place in the first team and to play every game.

"He is 25 and it is right at his age to want to play every game and I am sure he could have gone to a bigger club but the guarantee would not have been the same. It probably swayed him that Hatem Ben Arfa was already there and so it would have re-assured him that there were already French players on Tyneside.

"He made a quick decision to join Newcastle and he must have heard about the passion of the fans from Hatem and the ambition of the club from Alan Pardew so it can not have been hard.

"He gives Newcastle something special is play-maker but by that I mean in terms of organisation rather than being someone who supplies the finishing touches. He is more Xavi than Iniesta. But he has an excellent range of passing, he is comfortable in possession and he has a terrific shot on him.

"With that in mind I would not be surprised if Jack Rodwell is asked to do a bit of man-to-man marking to stop him. Rodwell is a very good player and he was very impressive when he was asked to man-mark David Silva. He is becoming their midfield main man. He breaks up attacks really well but he is dangerous as an attacker as well."

Steven Taylor v Tim Cahill

"I loved playing against Tim Cahill. He was an attacking midfielder in my day but now he is a really lively centre-forward who is rightly well known for being a really good header of the ball.

"He uses his body really well and you can see every time he scores with his head that he has climbed above players taller than himself because he has a really good spring.

"So far this season Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini have been the best central defensive pairing in the Premier League. There is the general awareness and coolness of Colo and the strength and determination to win the ball of Taylor that will be crucial against Cahill.

"In terms of character you can not get much better than Taylor and it is great to see him really guiding the team. I remember he was only a teenager when he started training with us in Sir Bobby Robson’s days but he will have to keep his wits about him, especially at set-pieces because Cahill can be lethal in those situations."

Sylvain Marveaux v Leighton Baines

"If he is to make his full league debut for Newcastle then it is fair to say that Sylvain Marveaux could hardly have asked for a more difficult opponent than Leighton Baines because for me only Ashley Cole and Jose Enrique are better than him and still there is not a lot in it between them.

"It is a shame that Baines is not playing Champions League football because I believe he is one of the best left-backs in the game but he does not get the recognition that his performances deserve because he is one of the best and he has loads of things going for him.

"He is so consistent but as well as being defensively very sound his crossing ability is unbelievable and he is probably the best in the game in terms of final passes plus he is really quick and is very good at over-lapping so Sylvain Marveaux will have plenty of work to do to track back.

"Newcastle fans will hardly have had a chance to see what Sylvain can do but they will be happy with what they see eventually because he is a very skilful player who works hard up and down the wing and he is a good crosser of the ball.

"However, it has been taking Gabriel Obertan a while to get used to the intensity of the Premier League and it may take Sylvain time to really settle in as well as he gets accustomed to the physicality and pace of English football."

Ryan Taylor v Seamus Coleman

"Ryan Taylor is playing better than ever at the moment even though he is still learning how to play at left-back. He has made rapid progress there and even though he is not left-footed he is starting to look natural in that position.

"He used to go back onto his right foot all the time but he is cutting that out of his game and looks really comfortable in possession. It helps that Jonas Gutierrez is doing a great job in front of him to cover for him and that combination is fantastic.

"That said, it should also be remembered that Ryan is always alert and does well in terms of covering behind his centre-halves which helps explain why the Newcastle defence is doing so well. He regularly gets in there with interceptions.

"He will be up against one of the best bargains in the Premier League in Seamus Coleman who cost Everton next to nothing but looks a very promising player. He is very busy player who has bags of energy, is confident in possession and also has a habit of bursting into the penalty box.

"Newcastle will have to be prepared for him trying to get the better of Taylor by going on his weaker left foot and that could be a real test with Tony Hibbert overlapping from right-back."

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Tyneside-based Olivier Bernard spoke to during a Show Racism the Red Card anti-racism workshop with schoolchildren at St James' Park. For further details visit

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