Let's look into the future a little bit. Newcastle finds itself in the quarterfinal of the EFL Cup against Hull City. They travel to KCOM Stadium on November 29th for a chance to advance to the semifinal. Many Premier League teams do not consider the League Cup to be a major competition, but there is still a spot in the Europa League group stage on the line.
Beating Hull City is a conceivable idea for Rafa Benitez's squad. The Tigers won their last Premier League game away at Southampton, but before that, were losers of five straight league competitions.
On the other hand, Newcastle have won eight straight matches and haven't lost in nearly two months. Benitez has this side humming and determined to perform well in this tournament.
For argument's sake, let's say that the Toons march on to the semis. At that point, a chance to snag the League Cup is not unreasonable. Yes, some giants still loom large like Liverpool and Manchester United, but the beauty of the cup is the unpredictability of it. Newcastle is well on its way to promotion back into the Premier League, so a win in the League Cup would place them in Europa League alongside a return to the top division of English football.
So the question needs to be asked, could a Europa League spot possibly hurt Newcastle's chances of staying up?
My immediate thought is yes. Only a year after relegation, to return and stay up is a difficult task without the added pressure and fixture congestion of a European competition. If Newcastle are sent back down, all that Rafa has done to this point is for naught. This isn't just my feeling, this has happened before.
Back in 2012, Newcastle qualified for the Europa League after finishing fifth in the Premier League. Expectations were high for Alan Pardew's side heading into the 2012-13 season.
It was not the follow up season many anticipated. The team was by no means prepared to compete in both competitions. Newcastle made a push to the quarterfinals of the Europa League before losing to eventual finalist Benfica. However, Pardew's group struggled mightily in league competition, finishing the season 16th, only five points clear of relegation.
Obviously, a lot has changed since then. Benitez seems a much better manager for this club than Pardew and the Magpies have a wealth of young talent.
Clearly there is a while before any of this might even be a concern, but is worth talking about. Let me know what you guys think in the comments below.