Tomorrow night will be the biggest European night for Newcastle since we were last in the quarter finals of the Europa League, back on April 7th, 2005 when Graeme Souness was manager and we beat Sporting Lisbon 1-0 at home, with a goal from – who else – Alan Shearer – but we lost the away leg 4-1 after we went ahead 1-0 in that game through Kieron Dyer.
Graeme Souness was manager last time Newcastle were in the quarter finals
Seen here trying to strangle Craig Bellamy
It was called the UEFA Cup in those days and the year before, in 2004, we reached the semi-finals under the great Bobby Robson, and lost to Marseilles by an aggregate 2-0 score, with both goals coming from Didier Drogba in France.
Newcastle won a huge league game on Sunday against Fulham, with a sensational Papiss Cisse winner in stoppage time, but let’s not forget two fantastic saves made by Tim Krul to keep a clean sheet for the first time for a long time.
And it seems we will need another clean sheet tomorrow night against Benfica, who are an excellent side and beat us 3-1 in Lisbon last week.
Newcastle were in the UEFA Cup as it was called in those days the next season but we lost to AZ Alkmaar.
Tim Krul has talked to the local press today and this is what the Dutch International goalkeeper had to say:
“Keeping a clean sheet will be massive, we can’t give away a goal,” “We are the ones who should be scoring first. Hopefully, we can do that and it will be a very special night.”
“We need to score two and keep a clean sheet but we won’t be going gung-ho, we can’t do that because if they score it give us a massive job to do.” “We can’t just throw everything in attack.”
“Hopefully, we can get a quick goal, then a second.”
So our defensive play will be the major element that can see us progress to the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 2004, and it’s good that Tim seems to be in his very best form since he returned last week in Lisbon, after recovering from that ankle injury.
And it will be no easy matter keeping Benfica scoreless, because since they have won 12 games in a row, they have scored in every one of their last 12 games – at least.
Tim is simply an excellent goalkeeper.