It’s all or nothing tonight at St. James’ Park, when Newcastle will try to overcome a two goal deficit (1-3) in the second leg of the quarter final against top Portuguese side Benfica.
And since Papiss Cisse scored in Lisbon last Thursday night, the easiest way we can get through this tie is to win the game 2-0, but it will be difficult to contain Benfica tonight, and we’ll have to do it without center-back Steven Taylor, who picked up a knee injury in training yesterday morning, and will miss the game.
But it seems as far as injuries go that Massadio Haidara is available tonight, after recovering from the knee injury he picked up over three weeks ago at Wigan, and we’re sure the 20 year-old will get a great reception from the home fans.
The fans sent the young Frenchman multiple get-well messages of support after he suffered that knee injury, following the gruesome tackle from Callum McManaman.
And it seems James Perch is also available, and James could start at the back in place of Steven Taylor.
In his meeting with the press yesterday, Alan Pardew said that Ben Arfa is also available for this game, and he will probably make a substitute appearance at some stage in tonight’s game, and it will be great to have Ben Arfa back.
With Taylor not being available, it seems that James Perch will partner Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa at the back, and both of them played very well in Moscow against Anzhi, and helped keep a clean sheet on March 7th.
The only thing that worries us a little bit is the lack of height in defense, when we are up against 6’4″ Oscar Cordozo, which is why Alan Pardew could spring a surprise and bring in 6’4″ Mike Williamson to partner Yanga-Mbiwa tonight.
Davide Santon, Mathieu Debuchy and Cheick Tiote are out injured, although the last two will be available for Sunday’s vital derby game against Sunderland. and are likely to start that game
This is the probable Newcastle side tonight:
Simpson Perch Yanga-Mbiwa Haidara
Marveaux Anita Cabaye (c) Gutierrez
Subs: Elliot Williamson Bigirimana Gosling Ben Arfa Obertan Ameobi (Sh)
Newcastle’s defense must play well tonight, and hopefully be able to keep a clean sheet against a side who have now won 12 successive games in all competitions, and it helped that we kept a clean sheet against Fulham last time out.
That’s really the key – and it doesn’t matter if we don’t score early – as long as we keep Benifca scoreless we are always in with a chance of getting a couple of late goals, that can see us in the final four of the Europa League.
And 60% of readers think we can do it tonight.
We hope we can get through, in what is our 14th game in Europe this season, but whatever happens tonight – Newcastle have done very well to progress this far.
And whatever happens, the lads will start preparing for the Sunderland game, and a win in that game will see us sitting pretty in the League table, and almost in the top ten.
But first things first – and we can do it tonight.
Note: For those attending tonight’s game (and Sunday too) please bring your scarves to the the game, as there is an effort to recreate the atmosphere at Alan Shearer’s testimonial, and hopefully inspire our lads to two famous wins.
You can also reach Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org