Alan Pardew believes Newcastle can realistically be playing European football next year, should their players emerge from the Africa Cup of Nations unscathed.
The Toon currently sit sixth in the Barclays Premier League after an impressive haul of 26 points from their opening 14 fixtures of the season.
However, Pardew has seen his side rocked by injury in recent days, with Danny Guthrie joining the likes of Cheick Tiote, Fabricio Colocinni and Steven Taylor on the sidelines.
And, with Tiote and Demba Ba scheduled to leave St James' Park for the Africa Cup of Nations in the New Year, Pardew could find himself short of options.
Pardew certainly believes this mid-season competition could be pivotal to Newcastle's eventual finish, and expects to have a good idea of what can be achieved when Tiote and Ba return.
"I obviously don't want any more injuries, because losing Marveaux, Williamson, Steven Taylor, Cheick and Guthrie is now starting to feel too many," the manager told the official Newcastle website.
"We can't afford too many of them, because if we are really going to challenge then you need your best players fit.
"There's no part of me that feels we are going to struggle this season in terms of the table, but we have got a bit of a struggle on our hands right now with injuries.
"If we can get through this busy Christmas period as best we can and be in the top seven after January, maybe when the African Nations comes to an end, then I think we have a chance of Europe.
"I've not said that before, but that will be my target."
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