Yohan Cabaye admits he did not expect to be challenging for a top-four finish with Newcastle, but is determined to help the club push into Europe.
The Magpies enjoyed a flying start to the season, with an 11-match unbeaten opening laying the foundations for a successful campaign to be built on.
Alan Pardew's side have been unable to keep themselves among the frontrunners, but they remain within five points of the UEFA Champions League places with 11 games left to play.
The first of those comes at Emirates Stadium on Monday, with a trip to Arsenal offering Newcastle an opportunity to close on the club that currently occupies fourth spot in the table.
Cabaye is hoping to shine in North London and admits securing continental qualification for the Magpies has become the top priority during his debut season in England.
"Of course we would love to keep doing well this season, get Newcastle in to Europe and then play players like (Lionel) Messi," the French midfielder told The Journal.
"That has to be the club's aim long term. We have 11 games to play, we just have to trust ourselves, keep working and make sure we win many games to reach Europe.
"To be honest when I signed for Newcastle I didn't think we would be in this position now. There are six clubs in England that have always been there for the last few years so it was going to be difficult for us to be in there with them.
"The good start clearly helped us, so then we started to believe, it made us trust ourselves that we could get many points to stay with them near the top.
"Even when we lost games to Man City, Chelsea or whoever, we stayed near the top. I think we have to stay focused only on what we are doing, like Arsenal on Monday first. Then after that we go match to match and think about that only, not what other teams are doing."
Newcastle know they have it all to do if they are to break into the top four this season, but Cabaye believes they are capable of holding their own with the Premier League elite.
He added: "I can't say our squad is better than Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal.
"We have proper quality, which is probably different to the qualities other clubs have. We play with these qualities and I'm sure each of the other teams have their own qualities. We have to just focus on what we do."