We are just learning the starting eleven for Newcastle and it looks like Mike Williamson will indeed start alongside Yanga-Mbiwa at the back, to give the Newcastle defense some height to combat the threat of Oscar Cordozo.
We had thought Mike Williamson may be brought in from the cold and this is a great chance for big Mike to show what he can do for Newcastle in the absence of Steven Taylor, who picked up an injury in training yesterday morning.
And 19 year-old Gael Bigirimana is given a huge chance by manager Alan Pardew to show what he can do in such an important match tonight, but Gael is still preferred to James Perch – who is on the bench.
Gael will be on the right hand side of midfield it seems – and is surprisingly preferred to Marveaux, so a couple of surprises in Alan Pardew’s selection tonight.
We have to think Gael has been very impressive in training to get a start in such a huge match for Newcastle.
On the bench is Hatem Ben Arfa, which is great to see, and surprisingly Sylvain Marveaux is on the bench, and Sylvain doesn’t get a starting place tonight, in spite of being our Man of the Match against Fulham. 18 year-old Adam Campbell has again earned a place on the bench.
Maybe Alan Pardew wants to ensure we have a clean sheet with say 30 minutes to go, and then bring on the likes of Marveaux and Ben Arfa to open up the Benfica defense – and there are a number of players who will be fresh for Sunday and Sunderland.
A bit of a surprise in the Benfica team is that Oscar Cordozo starts on the bench.
We need to keep a clean sheet tonight if we have a decent chance of going through.
Howay The Lads!!
Newcastle: (4-4-1-1): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Massadio Haidara; Gael Bigirimana, Yohan Cabaye (c), Vurnon Anita, Jonas Gutierrez; Moussa Sissoko; Papiss Cisse
Substitutes: Rob Elliot, Dan Gosling, James Perch, Sylvain Marveaux, Hatem Ben Arfa, Adam Campbell, Shola Ameobi
Benfica: (4-3-3): Artur; Andre Almeida, Luisao (c), Ezequiel Garay, Melgarejo; Eduardo Salvio, Nemanja Matic, Enzo Perez; Ola John, Lima, Nicolas Gaitan
Substitutes: Paulo Lopes, Jardel, Maxi Pereira, Pablo Aimar, Andre Gomes, Rodrigo, Oscar Cardozo