Newcastle face Atromitos again tomorrow evening with a place in the Europa League proper at stake for both sides.
The score is poised at 1-1 after Ryan Taylor rescued a point in Athens and to be honest the away goal probably gives United the edge in this encounter.
However away goals count for nothing if you get sloppy and allow the other side to muster one themselves so Newcastle will have to guard against complacency as they look to secure the result and with a place in the draw for the group stages of the Europa League which will be held Friday lunchtime.
It’s likely we will see more than the handful of fans who made the trip to Athens last week turn out to support the team, but it won’t be a full house and as things stand level seven will be closed, unless demand dictates that it is opened up. For a qualifier though I very much doubt that will happen, but then again I wouldn’t put it past the Toon Army!
Along with securing a safe passage through to the group stage, United are obviously going to want to bounce back from the defeat suffered at Stamford Bridge last Saturday. It should help that the player have had a few days off since then and haven’t been forced to play less than 48 hours after the final whistle again, but it’s also worth noting that our next league comes up rather quickly again when Aston Villa visit St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon.
With that in mind I expect to see a largely second string side once more with our more senior players rested for the Premier League match at the weekend. Cheik Tiote is out anyway, as is Hatem Ben Arfa through suspension, whilst question marks remain over the fitness of Haris Vuckic, Shane Ferguson and the Ameobi’s.
As well as blooding younger players and fringe players, this match could also be used as a fitness exercise. Both of our strikers have looked rusty, especially Papiss Cisse, while Yohan Cabaye only managed to play 18 minutes of pre-season followed by two 75 minute league appearances. Perhaps giving them some game time would be beneficial? Or should they be wrapped up in cotton wool?
Personally I’m getting cheesed off with this Europa League malarkey already. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact we’re in it, but it just feels that the way the games are scheduled are a form of punishment for success as opposed to a reward. If the scheduling was sorted perhaps more teams would take it more seriously?
Coverage of the match will be provided by ITV4 so as long as you have at least freeview on your telly you’ll be able to watch us, hopefully, progress. That is of course if you can;t get there yourself…
Howay the lads!
Date: Thursday, 29th August, 2012
Venue: St James’s Park