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Magpies manager predicting a tough battle with the title challengers and looking forward to seeing his team cause their rivals problems, but bemoans loss of African players

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew is expecting Sir Alex Ferguson to out his strongest side when his Manchester United side visit the Sports Direct Arena on Wednesday evening.

The Red Devils are expected to welcome back Wayne Rooney for the game and Pardew is also anticipating defence duo Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling to be in the lineup.

The Magpies boss believes the returning players will bring balance to the champions' team and insists both sides will be raring to go after bad results last time out.

He told reporters: "I'm well informed they will have a few back for this game and I'm not surprised because Alex Ferguson knows it is a tough game coming to Newcastle. He knows that from history so will put out his best possible side.

"I know 100 per cent Rooney will play and think Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling will play too so, suddenly, their side looks a lot more balanced. Ryan Giggs might be involved as well.

"United are on the back of a disappointing result [against Blackburn Rovers]. I fancy they will be as fired up for it as we are after getting beaten by Liverpool. It will be a good game."

Pardew is also aware that his team cannot allow the champions to get comfortable as they will punish his team, but remains confident his own players can cause the Red Devils problems.

He added: “Looking at the recent games, teams that have sat back against United have got thumped. They’ve got such talent in their ranks, they’re going to cause you problems.

"But we have a striker who is in form, a central midfield pairing that I think’s as good as theirs and the back line and the goalie have been resolute all year, so we’re in a good position.

“Clubs like ourselves, when the big clubs come along, you have to get yourself up and ready for them and we are looking forward to it.”

With the Africa Cup of Nations this month, many managers across the country are preparing for the loss of some of their players, with Pardew having to deal with Cheick Tiote and Demba Ba, two of his best performers, possibly leaving in the next week. However, the Magpies boss has bemoaned the lack of communication from Tiote’s national side, the Ivory Coast.

He continued: “We’re speaking to the FA. We want to know what’s been decided with other clubs and who is eligible to play and are all Africa Cup of Nations’ players going to go on Saturday morning, or Friday, or after the game on Sunday.

"When is it they actually have to officially report? We’re seeking clarification.

“It has to be fair. Losing those two players on the back of a two-day turnaround before the FA Cup, that would impact on us again. We’re obviously trying to make sure they’re going to play in that game but we’ll have to wait and see.”

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