Even though we play Sunderland in an early kick-off game on Sunday, Alan Pardew will play his strongest side tonight against Benfica, in a valiant attempt to get through to the final four of the Europa League.
Ben Arfa – will play some part tonight
And as it so happens we could have Cheick Tiote and Mathieu Debuchy back for the Sunderland game, and Ben Arfa could also start on Sunday, but he will start on the bench tonight.
Certainly Alan Pardew is looking forward to this game, as he had this to say today in the Daily Telegraph:
“It will be a special night and I’m really looking forward to it,” “Unless you are one of four or five biggest clubs in country, to get to the quarter-final is something special”
“This is where this club wants to be and my aim when I came here was to lift this club up there again.” “Our defensive record is very good in Europe. We have done enough in the first leg to say we have got a big shout if we are intelligent about how we approach it.”
“It’s all about the fans. I think, for us, if we need two goals with 20 minutes to go we can do it. The fans have seen the way we are finishing games and they will know we can.”
“We were a little bit unlucky in Portugal,” “That probably didn’t come through in the Portuguese press, but they won 3-1, and only Barcelona have beaten them by two clear goals this season, so that’s the size of the task.”
“We are under no illusions there, but we have great belief. We can beat anybody at home.”
If Newcastle make it through to the semi-finals of this competition, it will be only the third time we have done so.
Newcastle won the thing in 1969 when it was called the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, and Bobby Robson took us through to the final four nine years ago when it was called the UEFA Cup.
Benfica will have rarely faced a hostile atmosphere that they will experience tomorrow night, in front of 52.400 screaming Geordies, and the Newcastle manager is hoping they will buckle under the pressure.
So are we, and it’s definitely a possibility.
You can also reach Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org