Alan Pardew has instructed his Newcastle United players to raise their game as they prepare for two matches which seem poised to serve as a litmus test of the team's potential.
On Thursday night Bordeaux, unbeaten in France's Ligue 1, visit Tyneside on Europa League duty, and Sunday sees a reversion to the Premier League and the arrival of Manchester United.
"They're significant games in terms of upping our levels," said Pardew, whose side have made a decent start to the campaign without ever quite hitting last season's highs. "We go in with a strong chance of winning both matches, but we need people playing at their maximums. So far we've been getting results without being at our best."
According to Steve Harper, the reserve goalkeeper, Pardew "read the riot act" to his team following last Saturday's fortunate draw at Reading and has challenged Newcastle's players to remind him what they are truly capable of.
With Bordeaux having beaten Bruges 4-0 in their last group game it will not be easy on Thursday evening. "They're favourites to top the group," said Pardew. "But our fans will be taking this game seriously and we expect to win it. Our concentration levels will have to go up but this is a competition we want to do well in."
Although Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor are injured, Pardew is likely to field a slightly stronger side than he sent out in early Europa League fixtures against Atromitos and Marítimo. If the starting XI remains youthful, the home bench promises to be packed with experience.
"The only way we can keep people like Yohan Cabaye, who is one of the best players in Europe, Papiss Cissé, Cheik Tioté and Demba Ba here is to bring success to Newcastle," acknowledged Pardew. "That's the only way and that's what we are going to try to do. This competition is part of that."
After denying suggestions that Tottenham Hotspur made a bid for Cabaye during the summer, Pardew conceded that keeping his squad intact represented an ongoing challenge. "Of course the likes of Yohan and one or two others are going to be courted by some of the top sides, that's natural," he said. "But I think players develop here and it's important that we give them a platform for success. Hopefully, together, we can achieve that."
David Bellion, Bordeaux's one-time Manchester United forward, can expect a hot reception should Francis Gillot, the visiting coach, involve him. Yet if Newcastle fans are unlikely to let Bellion forget a previous stint at Sunderland, his current team-mates could be forgiven for wondering if they really are in England. French remains very much the dominant tongue at Newcastle where it is the first language of 10 players in Pardew's squad, including Gabriel Obertan who began his career at Bordeaux.