Alan Pardew has claimed winning the Europa League is tougher than winning the Champions League. And after saying United's poor start to the season was NOT down to European games ...

... he has changed his mind.

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Apparently the European schedule (in which his team selection is 80% reserves) is killing off his hopes of .... errrrrr .... qualifying for Europe next season.

The Magpies face Maritimo at St James' Park - the game will be their 20th of the season - and it has taken its toll, with compatriots Tottenham and Liverpool having also experienced difficulties.

Pardew believes they are having it tougher than Champions League quartet Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Alan Pardew: "I think it's harder for us, I genuinely do.

"The four Champions League teams have the finance to attack that with two squads, really, whereas we are attacking a competition that has many more games, a heavier schedule and a more difficult night, Thursday night, with a much-reduced squad, so of course it's much more difficult for us.

"You have only got to look at the other two clubs in the competition and we are all having very similar seasons at the moment - and they are stronger clubs than us, financially.

"It just goes to show you that it does make a big impact on your Premier League situation.

"But you want to be in a competition that gives you some fighting chance in your own league, and this is very difficult, and we all know that as Premier League managers.

"It's whispered about. 'Blimey, that's going to be tough for you next year' - that's all heard during the summer - and it has been.

"I do feel that perhaps it needs to be looked at a little bit. Whether Spanish clubs and German clubs have that same opinion, I'm not sure.

"If we get the three points tomorrow, we go through and that will just be another different atmosphere in the squad.

"As a player, you just want to go into every game and get the three points. When I watched the team last season, it looked like they could go for five games or 10 games unbeaten.

"But these things happen in football, so we just have to get our heads up and make sure we get the next three points."