Europa League football is back on the agenda as St James’ Park prepares to welcome Ukranian outfit Metalist Kharkiv.
The fact that we’re playing the first leg of this Round of 32 encounter at home is because we finished our group campaign as runners up to Bordeaux, who also face Ukraninan oppositions, meaning that as a penalty we must play the second leg away from home.
Which means that ideally we need to put ourselves in a position to progress through the result at St James’ Park which will require Alan Pardew to name a strong side. We discussed yesterday the merits and pitfalls of naming a strong side whilst out Premier League safety is still up in the air, but it seems that Alan Pardew doesn’t feel the same way I do and will name a strong side for the match tomorrow. For those that missed it, this is what he had to say:
“I will be picking a strong side for Thursday, the new lads who arrived last month give us greater depth. It is a competition we would all love to win, it is difficult to get through the group stage so we don’t want that hard work to all be for nothing!”
I guess we’ll just have to see how staring we go, but with our next league game still 11 days away I suspect we’ll try and get the job done on home soil.
Alan Pardew will be without Ryan Taylor, Haris Vuckic and Dan Gosling. Danny Simpson’s fitness (assuming he’s not getting new tattoos or getting sparked out on the town) is unknown. Sammy Ameobi is out after picking up an injury in training while Hatem Ben Arfa should have featured but has had his return put back due to a virus. Yoan Guffran is also out through injury although he couldn’t have featured anyway due to being cup-tied in this competition. Another player effectively cup-tied is Mathieu Debuchy who couldn’t be named in the squad due to being us only being able to name one player who has played in the Champions League in the current season. That spot went to Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
Other than that Pardew has few selection concerns and has arguably his strongest squad available to him currently. This was highlighted in the linked article earlier on where names such as Cheik Tiote, Vurnon Anita, Sylvain Marveaux and new guys like Massadio Haidara and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa could play after limited involvement in recent weeks. Also Adam Campbell has been kept back from being involved in a tournament that a lot of the younger players are involved in currently suggesting he could be involved in some form.
United have no previous history with Metalist Kharkiv, but against Ukrainian opposition we are unbeaten at St James’ Park having taken on Dynamo Kiev three (two Champions League ties and one friendly) times on home soil previously, beating them on all three occasions.
Without a competitive match since December 6th, Kharkiv have been playing friendly matches to keep in shape for this game. They got to this stage by topping their group beating Bayer Leverkusen, Rapid Vienna and Rosenberg at home before beating the Norwegians away and drawing with the Germans in Leverkusen. They lost their return match in Austria.
Stats and facts:
Mike Williamson could make his 100th appearance for the Magpies. Massadio Haidara and Mapou Yanga Mbiwa could make their first.
Toonsy will celebrate his 4th wedding anniversary by watching the game!
United are unbeaten in 11 European fixtures at St James’ Park. If you don’t include the Intertoto Cup, that run extends to 22 games over 10 years since losing to Partizan Belgrade.
I’m still struggling to get myself up for this competition. It would have been different if there was no question of relegation, but having done the tour of the Championship (and enjoyed it, especially Peterborough with my feet and ankles being covered in urine!) I can’t say I’d like to go back there.
Having said that, we do have more options these days and have a gap to our next league game so why not go for it? The confidence gained by grabbing a win would be worth it, not forgetting the fact that a lot of these players haven’t played together before so the increased understanding would leave us arguably in better shape.
Whatever your feelings on the competition, this is a game that needs playing so why not go out and try to win it?
Howay the lads!
Date: Thursday, 14th February, 2013
Time: 20:05 – Live on ESPN
Venue: St James’ Park