Ba and Cisse share load as Newcastle close on top four

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Newcastle are now just 8/1 in the Premier League odds to finish in the top four this season and as good as Demba Ba was over the opening half of the campaign, Papiss Demba Cisse has been arguably better since arriving in January.

Ba struck 14 times by Boxing Day to get Newcastle into the hunt for a Champions League place, but has struggled to emulate this consistency since with just three goals.

However, as Ba has gone off the boil, Senegalese compatriot Cisse has taken over where he left off, netting nine goals in just eight Newcastle appearances since moving for £9.5m from Freiburg in the latest transfer window.

Although the duo were initially partnered together in attack, Alan Pardew has slightly changed strategy since and this could be one reason for Ba slowing down in terms of goals.

To accommodate Cisse, Ba has been utilised more in a forward left position, with Hatem Ben Arfa filling a similar role on the other flank, either side of a single striker.

This decision has worked a treat, with Cisse scoring doubles in each of Newcastle’s last three league games, with the latest win at Swansea lifting them to fifth in the table, just two points behind Tottenham.

Meanwhile, with home games against the likes of Bolton and Stoke on the horizon, there is every chance that Newcastle will still be in contention for a top-four spot in early May.

The one potential negative for Newcastle is that key central midfield duo Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye ciuld both miss Bolton’s visit to the Sports Direct Arena.

Tiote is almost certain to miss the encounter after suffering a recurrence of a hamstring problem in Swansea, which resulted in him being replaced at half-time.

Meanwhile, Cabaye suffered a minor knock which also saw him substituted, but he should shake it off.

If Newcastle beat Bolton it will be the first time they will have won four successive Premier League games since last qualifying for the Champions League in 2003.

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