ALAN Pardew claims contract negotiations with Fabricio Coloccini are going well, despite mounting speculation linking the Newcastle skipper with Liverpool.
Coloccini, who has arguably been the Magpies' most impressive performer in the opening two-and-a-half months of the season, will enter the final 18 months of his current contract at the turn of the year.
His recent displays have interested a range of potential suitors including Spanish side Sevilla, who made a tentative approach for his services in the summer, and Liverpool, who are keen to secure a proven defensive reinforcement when the transfer window reopens at the turn of the year.
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Newcastle have sold key players in the last two transfer windows, and with Coloccini's wages of around £80,000-a-week making him the highest-paid player on the books, there are fears owner Mike Ashley could opt to cash in again if an inviting opportunity presents itself in January.
Pardew has learned to his cost that every player has their price, but with talks with Coloccini and his representatives already underway, the Magpies manager is confident of retaining his captain.
"He has been outstanding for us as a captain and a player," said Pardew. "We're in negotiations with him on a new contract.
"Liverpool like looking at our players, don't they? But I don't really want to add any more than that."
With their game at Stoke City having been switched to Monday evening, Newcastle have a rare blank weekend in which to reflect on their opening defeat of the season at Blackburn on Wednesday.
The Carling Cup reverse was a chaotic affair, with the Magpies scoring two stoppage-time goals to force extra-time, cancelling out a Morten Gamst Pedersen effort in the extra period, but ultimately succumbing to a 119th-minute header from Gael Givet.
The defeat ended the club's 14-game unbeaten run, but Pardew is confident his players will produce a positive response when they enter the unforgiving environs of the Britannia Stadium in two days time.
"It won't have knocked our confidence," he said. "The feelgood factor is still there. No team ever stays unbeaten - you just have to respond.
"Had Spurs won (this month's) game 2-1 and we didn't respond like we did, that would have been a very different feeling to what we've got now.
"There was honour in the performance at Blackburn and looking at my players individually, even though one or two were slightly below par, I thought the guys who came on, (Danny) Guthrie in particular, did well. There were big bonuses to take away from that."
Having made five changes for the Carling Cup defeat, Pardew is set to revert to his preferred Premier League line-up on Monday.
Cheik Tiote, however, is rated no better than 50-50 as he continues to recover from a knee injury. If Tiote fails to make it, Guthrie is expected to partner Yohan Cabaye.
Either way, there is unlikely to be a place in the starting line-up for Hatem Ben Arfa, who failed to make an impression at Ewood Park as he filled the hole behind lone striker Demba Ba.
"Perhaps too much is expected of Hatem," said Pardew. "I didn't think it was his best game at Blackburn, he'll play a lot better than that.
"It's difficult as a striker to come in to the team and have an immediate impact, especially when you've been out for a long, long time. Possibly he's trying too hard to make an impact.
"With Hatem, it's a question of being patient and above all him being patient, to make sure he gets himself right, because when he does he'll be a fantastic player for us."
* Leon Best has been excluded from the Republic of Ireland squad for next month's Euro 2012 play-off double-header with Estonia.
Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has preferred Shane Long, even though West Brom claim the striker will miss the next six weeks with a knee injury.