ALAN Pardew could rest first team stars for his side’s decisive UEFA Cup tie with Metalist Kharkiv – to keep them fresh to face Saints.

The former St Mary’s boss welcomes his old club to St James’ Park on Sunday with the two clubs level on points just above the drop zone.

It is a big match for both teams, and not just for personal reasons for Pardew who was controversially axed as Saints manager in August 2010 by chairman Nicola Cortese, and who lost against his former side at St Mary’s earlier in the season.

But, while Mauricio Pochettino is enjoying the benefits of two weeks without a game for his charges, Pardew has the small matter of trying to reach the last 16 of the Europa League to contend with.

Newcastle drew 0-0 at home to their Ukrainian opponentsin the first leg of their tie and so travel this Thursday facing a tough test.

They won’t land back in England until Friday and then have a short time to prepare for Saints. That is why Pardew is considering changes.

He said: “We have to sit down and make sure we get team selection right. Southampton is a huge game for us and so is the second leg of this tie. We’re going to have to call that right.

“We know there’s a tail-off of energy from Thursday to Sunday, so we’re going to have to make sure the team’s good enough to get us what we want out there in Ukraine, and also good enough to beat Southampton.”

Newcastle already have enough selection problems to worry about with seven first team stars likely to be ruled out of the Metalist Kharkiv game.

Two of those – Yoan Gouffran and Hatem Ben Arfa – are touch and go to be available for the visit of Saints, who are expected to have a fully fit squad from which to choose.

Despite his selection problems, Pardew is confident of progression in the Europa League.

“They’ve got to beat us to win,” he reckoned. “If we play anything like we did, it’ll be difficult for them.

“We pulled them around and asked them a lot of different questions – there were a lot of good things about us.

“There were nice introductions from the bench – Shola Ameobi and Sylvain Marveaux made a difference – and that bodes well for the coming games. There’s a lot to think about.”