Newcastle manager Alan Pardew admits his side faces a crucial period which could define their season.
Newcastle travel to Fulham on Monday night before a difficult run of fixtures, which includes Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal before the end of the year.
The absence of Yohan Cabaye and Steven Taylor through injury and the imminent departure of Cheick Tiote to the Africa Cup of Nation, will test the Newcastle squad, who have lost four of their last five Premier League clashes.
And Pardew admits their next five games before the beginning of January could decide whether they challenge for a top-six finish this season or languish in the lower echelons of the league.
Pardew said: "This is a critical period, from now until January. I do feel after January this team is definitely going to be stronger.
"But we are going to lose Cheick, we have obviously lost Cabaye, we have lost Steven Taylor and we have got some big teams coming, big clubs, bigger clubs than us - and there aren't many that are bigger than us.
"It will be a real test in the next two months. We have got to really nail ourselves down and get as many points as we can and see where we are.
"We are not actually too far away from that fifth, sixth place - probably the same as we are from the relegation zone.
"That's where our season is right now."