Newcastle return to European action for the first time in five years tomorrow evening when we pay a visit to Athens to take on Greek side Atromitos F.C.
This isn’t the Europa League proper though, not just yet, and we have to beat the Greek side over two legs first and foremost before we can start looking at the group stages of the competition.
Being honest I know precisely zip about the Greek outfit aside from bits and bobs I’ve found on my internet trawls. I know they have only played two European games in their entire history (a 6-1 aggregate defeat to Sevilla back in the 2006-2007 season) and I know they have the younger brother of former Newcastle “striker” Shefki Kuqi on their books. Aside from those facts, plus the fact they are from Greece, Athens to be precise, and play in the 10,200 capacity Peristeri Stadium I know not a lot about them so will focus mainly on Newcastle for this preview.
In terms of injury news, Shola Ameobi will miss out as will his younger brother Sammy. Sylvain Marveaux is missing in action as nobody seems to know where he actually right now while Fabricio Coloccini is likely to be given some extra time to recover from the thigh injury that kept him out of the weekend game against Spurs. Hatem Ben Arfa will also not feature as he starts a suspension earned during his days at Marseille.
We are likely to see a largely second string outfit for the game. Partly it’s down to being able to blood some of the fringe players, but a larger proportion of that will be to do with the fact that we play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge less that 48 hours after our game in Athens. Newcastle did try and get the games switched but the Metropolitan Police refused on the grounds that the Notting Hill Carnival will be using up their resources on the Sunday and Monday.
So who can we expect to see in action? Well I’m not too sure so perhaps we can have a bit of a debate about that. What we do know is that Alan Pardew has already prioritised the league and has dropped hints about leaving first team players on Tyneside for this particular trip, which leads to the conclusion that names like Gael Bigirimana, Dan Gosling and Romain Amalfitano will get some game time.
Using nothing but my opinion, and taking Alan Pardew’s words into consideration plus our game against Chelsea at the weekend, I’d field a team that looked something like this:
Newcastle: Steve Harper, James Tavernier, James Perch, Mike Williamson, Jonas Gutierrez, Gabriel Obertan, Gael Bigirimana, Vurnon Anita, Romain Amalfitano, Haris Vuckic, Adam Campbell.
Having said that the team I propose may not have enough experience although the likes of Harper, Jonas, Obertan and Anita have all been playing senior football for years so should be able to help the rest through.
What we need to do is keep things tight ad try to sneak an away goal. The Greek side will see us as a scalp and will want to give themselves something to defend in the second leg so are likely to come at us. We need to soak it up to start with and then hit them where it hurts.
I’m looking forward to our European return. It gives us a chance to look at other clubs who we haven’t for years, or ever as is the case with this fixture. But we still need to do a job and the game is there to be won.
To Atromitos and beyond….
Howay the lads!
P.S. Don’t forget it a 6pm kick-off, UK time.