Pulis wary of Newcastle test
Manager Tony Pulis believes Crystal Palace face a tough test against a Newcastle side flourishing without the distraction of European football.
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Alan Pardew's side finished 16th in the Barclays Premier League last season after an impressive fifth place in the previous campaign saw them qualify for the Europa League.
Newcastle have once again enjoyed a resurgence in form since the start of this season, with no Thursday night action to concern former Palace boss Pardew.
And it is that factor, rather than the suggestion that six January arrivals unbalanced the squad last term, which Pulis feels has allowed the Magpies to flourish once more.
"I think Newcastle had a struggle before the window opened anyway, there was lots of other stuff going on," he said.
"I think European football caught them out and that has been proved this season with them not being in Europe. Two years ago they weren't and they had a great season and they are following it up this year by not being in the Europa League. That is the main reason they struggled last year."
The French quintet of Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara and Moussa Sissoko all arrived at St James' Park over the course of the window but could not help Pardew's side finish outside of the bottom five.
The likes of Debuchy, Gouffran and Sissoko have settled in to the team this season and, along with the summer loan signing of compatriot Loic Remy, have made Newcastle a very strong outfit in Pulis' opinion.
"They are top-six club," he added.
"They have invested very heavily in the French market over the past few years, they have got some top, top players and Remy has brought them what Demba Ba gave them before he left, that cutting edge.
"We will be playing a really good team and a top club in Newcastle United. They have got a very good manager and some outstanding players and their record over the past few months has been exceptional.
"Their away performances have been good so we know how tough it is going to be, we have to be really on it to get anything out of the game."
Newcastle have won five out of their last seven league outings but Palace are also enjoying a good spell following Pulis' appointment at Selhurst Park on November 23.
The former Stoke manager has overseen two wins in four games, with narrow defeats at Norwich and Chelsea offset by home victories over fellow strugglers West Ham and Cardiff.
The Eagles are now just one point behind 17th-placed West Ham but Pulis is still determined to add to his ranks when the transfer window opens.
He said: "The response of everybody around the football club has been first-class and results help. We have had some good results and good performances and we need to continue that.
"There are areas where we have to improve and where we will look to strengthen, I have spoken to Steve (Parish, co-chairman) and the directors about that but it takes time.
"You can't change everything and unfortunately we are running against teams who have been in the Premier League for a long time.
"There are certain areas where we can move a few players because we are overloaded and there are certain areas where we are not so strong - it will be a case of trying very, very hard to get the right players who suit us and it will suit them as well.
"The most important thing if you are bringing players in is that they are of sound character and that they improve your team and we need players that are going to come in and improve the first XI."
Wilfried Zaha, who starred for Palace during last season's promotion campaign before moving to Manchester United in the summer, has been linked with a loan move away from Old Trafford in the coming month and Pulis declared a tentative interest in looking to bring the England international back to south London.
"We are talking about a player owned by another football club," he replied when asked about a move for Zaha.
"It is not my right to do that. Obviously he was a tremendous player at this football club but I'm sure Wilfried, David [Moyes] and Manchester United will do what is best for him.
"We'd be interested but we would be interested in [Robin] van Persie and [Wayne] Rooney if they were available. We are interested in all good players."