Benfica v Newcastle – Europa League match preview

It's a Europa league knockout

It's a Europa league knockout
It’s a Europa league knockout
Newcastle head to Portugal where they will take on Benfica at the real Stadium of Light in the Quarter Final of the Europa League tomorrow evening.

Roughly 3,800 United fans will be making the trip to Lisbon and will be right behind the boys as they try to take a positive result back to St James’ Park for the second leg.

However it’s going to be a tough ask. Benfica are currently leading the Portuguese Primeira Liga and are unbeaten in their 24 league fixtures to date. If you add in the final four games of last season that run extends to 28 matches and whilst we were floundering against Manchester City, Benfica were beating Rio Ave 6-1 in Lisbon. Remember, this is a team that dropped into the Europa League from the Champions League so it will be a tough test for sure.


Cheik Tiote and Massadio Haidara are both still out injured while Hatem Ben Arfa and Fabricio Coloccini have remained on Tyneside. Mathieu Debuchy is also sidelined but would have been unavailable anyway as he is cup tied. The latter part also applies to Yoan Gouffran after his participation in the Europa League with Bordeaux earlier on in the season.

Ryan Taylor continues to recover from injury but is still some way from featuring for the first team whilst Haris Vuckic remains a long-term absentee but in better news, Davide Santon and Tim Krul are available again and have made the squad which leaves us with a confirmed squad of 19 looking a bit like this:

Tim Krul, Rob Elliot, Davide Santon, Danny Simpson, James Perch, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson, Vurnon Anita, Moussa Sissoko, Yohan Cabaye, Dan Gosling, Sylvain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan, Jonas Gutierrez, Gael Bigirimana, Papiss Cisse, Shola Ameobi, Adam Campbell


We’ve never played Benfica in a competitive game before so it’s another first for us. We have played them twice in friendly matches before though (won one and lost one on penalties) but instead I’m going to look at how we’ve fared against Portuguese opposition as a whole.

You can split our record in two pretty much. We’ve never won on Portuguese soil and we’ve never lost to Portuguese opposition on home soil. At St James’ Park we’ve played six games against Portuguese opposition, winning four and drawing two. We’ve played in Portugal five times as things stand winning one, losing one and drawing three.

Stats and facts:

Mike Williamson is still waiting to make his 100th appearance for United whilst an appearance for Shola Ameobi will signal his half-century of appearances for Newcastle in European competition.

If we manage to keep a clean sheet we will set a new record for games without conceding a goal. Currently we’ve not conceded in four games, and by extending that to five we’ll set a new Europa League record.

To expand on that, United have kept 8 clean sheets in their 12 (including qualifying) Europa League games to date.

Final thought…

It’s going to be a tough one but in a way I’m looking forward to it. The most important thing for us to do is to make sure we leave ourselves in a position to go through when the two sides meet at St James’ Park. If the game is out of sight by the end of tomorrow night then it makes the second leg pointless so we need to keep things tight and try to sneak an away goal if we can.

We’ll need to be measured, we can’t just do what some fans would like to see and go out and attack as we’ll just leave ourselves wide open in defence. Keep calm, keep things tight for the opening 20 minutes and feel our way into the game. Conceding an early goal would be a bad thing so it’s important to wake up right from the first whistle and maintain focus throughout.

Howay the lads!

Date: Thursday, 4th April, 2013

Time: 8:05pm – Live on ITV4

Venue: EstΓ‘dio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal

120 thoughts on “Benfica v Newcastle – Europa League match preview

  1. andy, just noticed the shola coaching role comment.. πŸ˜€

    I hope his first session is with a full lenghth mirror, “look here son, you have to run at some point”


  2. Kev
    Quite possibly, can’t see us buying a 15m, 80k player mind but will invest it in some Bigi-style youngsters as you say. If some of our development players come through as expected (hasn’t really happened in the past) then we’ll have a strong squad. If we want Wilsheres, Sturridges and Welbecks then our promising players need to be loaned out to PL teams. Problem being we’re currently among the bottom group of the PL and no one wants one of youngsters to play first team football with them, no matter how good they are supposed to be because we aren’t one of the big teams. That’s why I believe Campbell, Ferguson ect aren’t going to reach their full potential because they can’t play enough in our team for the ‘superstars’ and can only loan them out to lower division sides meaning that’s the division which they’ll peak in. Rant over πŸ˜†


  3. Welly@64 πŸ˜† πŸ˜† ,Would like a pic of the guy to see if he actually did look like Joey. People used to say my ex looked like Paul Merson πŸ˜† could never see it myself ,he certainly don’t look like him now ,the fat get πŸ˜†


  4. If our last few games in Europe are anything to go by its going to be a drab 0-0 or 1-0 going either way.

    I cant believe how shite our current tactic is (4-2-3-1) compared to the 4-4-2 we used last year for most of the season. Bring back the 4-4-2 or the 4-3-3 which we used at the tail end of last season.

    For tonight i just want to see a bit of desire to win. Which has been none existent the last 2 games. I also want to see Cisse get a bit of support tonight. Every time he receives the ball there isn’t another Newcastle player withing 30 yards of him and about 4 opp players right next to him. Is it any wonder he looks clueless alot of the time.


  5. So the latest transfer link in Gimmefootball is that Liverpool are going to swap Andy Carroll for HBA !


  6. I just noticed that comment Pardew made about Benfica being only a top 10 side in England wow English arrogance at its best. What a twat!!!


  7. Thanks for the link Kim. Count on Pards. It looks as if he’s got them smashing up the furniture in Portugal. He’s kindly done their team talk for them for no fee and now he just needs to do ours. πŸ˜›


  8. B&B ,No probs ,though as usual it never worked πŸ™„ 😳 Me and links are incompatible ,bit like Pards and tactics πŸ˜‰


  9. Santii- I’m with you on the 4-3-3 but without Ben Arfa, Gouffron and Debuchy I’m not sure we have the players to play that tonight. Don’t really have the players for 4-4-2 either at them moment.


  10. Unless Pards springs a surprise tonight, I reckon the starting XI will be Krul; Simpson, Saylor, M’Biwa, Santon; Cabaye, Anita, Jonas, Sissoko, Marv; Cisse.

    Certainly that’s the strongest XI available. I can’t see any viable alternative to 4-2-3-1 with that squad, with perhaps an honourable mention for 4-4-1-1 with Jonas/Marv on the wings and Sissoko behind Cisse?

    Of the candidates to play forward roles in a 4-3-3, I don’t think any of them have it in them… Marv? Nope. Jonas? Nope. Obertan? Nope.

    …Christ I hope we don’t play Shola at CF with Cisse RW…


  11. Newkie @ 69 Yeah I agree about Pards and the rest keeping their gobs shut. They’re forever promising to come back with a performance. How does that work? How can Pards or any of the players say things like that? More often than not they fail to deliver after the same old promises. I suppose they’ll keep on doing it for as long as nobody reminds them of their words in the bitter aftermath.

    You say, “As for your impression on pards, I am not sure why you get that. I am not privy to his training routines and neither are any of us…the one thing is clear is that it isn’t working this year-but it did last year, say what you will, but it did.” I get that impression [that pards’ concentrates anally on the opposition and how to counteract them] because he frequently boasts of how much homework he does on the opposition and how well briefed the players are. Ten minutes, fine, but ten page dossiers on each player and hours of briefing!?

    I simply don’t know how you have come to the conclusion that our success last year was in some large measure down to this homework? There are several credible theories and suggestions put forward for last season’s fifth place finish. If you say it was down to the homework, how do you explain its apparent lack of effectiveness this season? Or would we now be relegated without it?

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t weigh up the opposition, but not at the expense of getting your own game right. Improving our own game should always come before countering the opposition’s, surely? Set pieces, for example, are a basic and we all know how crap they are.


  12. Coaching Cisse to stop running offside is something else Pards should concentrate on before compiling his opposition dossiers. How many times will we see Cisse do that tonight?

    Or, if he is is set on playing Ameobi, coaching him how to head the ball, or if that’s an impossible task, then at least drilling into him the importance of not giving away stupid free kicks.

    Coaching the whole team on the necessity of not conceding free kicks in our own half, because they really do prove costly. Again how many of them will we see tonight?

    Practice crossing, especially putting them low instead of high.

    There is no evidence he works on any of these things.


  13. @B&B

    Coaching Cisse to stay on side!! Impossible!!!!

    To be fair on the needless fouls i always hear our bench shouting to not foul when they are around our box.

    As for our crossing. Having more than one person in the box when the crosses come in would help with that aswell.


  14. Santii – You hear the bench shouting not to foul. The trouble is the players are clearly taking no notice. I’ve already mentioned Pards’ quote following the City match “For all the information we tried to put into the team, we got a negative reaction.”

    Going back to my post to Newkie, my theory about the difference between this season and last season is that the players have gradually lost faith in the manager and confidence in his judgment. We know for a fact he has pissed some of them off and then tried to get back on side by kissing their asses. It’s like when you get a new lass. You’d do anything for her in the first few months, but then you find she gradually grates on you and you wonder how you didn’t see it initially. Before long, you’ve lost respect and show it by not being fully committed to her and doing what she wants.


  15. Part of this poor season is explained by the fact that the team over-performed last year. Cisse caught many teams by surprise and some of his goals were outrageous and he hasn’t been able to repeat those performances this season. That would explain it if we were sitting in 8th to 10th place this season but we’re 15th and deservedly so. I think you must be in part right B&B @93. Some of the players’ faith in Pardew has been shaken and his tactics and team selection have often been poor. To stick with Willo as the main target on free kicks and corners for nearly half a season was just ridiculous. Anyone could see it wasn’t working after 2 or 3 games. Willo has no touch and no offensive flair whatsoever. I think Pardew would be willing to admit that now. It would be an interesting question for a reporter to ask although somewhat embarrassing for Pards. His inability to sit Jonas more often when Anita and Marveaux were clearly playing better football was also mystifying. On top of that like it or not Cisse has had a poor second season with us and we have no real alternative to him. I won’t even bother talking about the Ben Arfa fiasco again. So all in all no wonder we’re 15th.


  16. G2 @ 95 That’s a fair summary. I would add that Ba was on fire too, and he hasn’t been replaced. We were lucky in having two players hit brilliant goalscoring form one after another.


  17. B+B-Aye, but it’s probably the same most teams players are with the press, only I don’t pay them any attention. It was refreshing to generally have silence from Colo and not Nolan bleating on about this or that, but some fans want constant attention so I guess they can never win with both sets.

    “There are several credible theories and suggestions put forward for last season’s fifth place finish. If you say it was down to the homework, how do you explain its apparent lack of effectiveness this season?”

    As for that, like I said last year it was down to several reasons. A good feel good factor around the squad-and seniors like Colo/Jonas filling in diligently for the outspoken Nolan/Barton circle. Our lesser players stepping up and performing-Simmo, Perch, Willo. Regardless of what people say, most of them had good performances and hands in getting us clean sheets which was what our success was built on. And then the remarkable form of Cisse/Ba/Ben Arfa and luck etc etc. But for me, particularly in those early games, our defensive discipline and work rate was top notch. The negating of the opposition’s threats was presumably part of Pards’ homework? As was getting the best out of an attacking line up of Jonas, Ba, Best and Obertan-who a vast majority of our fans have deemed shit before being proven wrong (well, not in the case of Obertan-razz) although that’s presumably less on the dossier and more on actual training.

    As for its lack of effectiveness this season-like I said, additional games, additional scouting, more travelling, less training. Less spent on individual teams, and perhaps less spent on general training? Given that this was his first real tilt at Europe and we have gotten so far that would also have interrupted the schedule. It is by no means the only reason and it in itself isn’t an excuse, but combined with our other troubles you have to say its a factor.

    But I am definitely not saying you should focus on that more than your own game, that should be the first thing put right and we all know about corners…how that hasn’t been sorted is beyond me, but given Marv seems the only player capable in our squad of delivering one, my solution would be to get him on the pitch!


  18. If B+B is right and their faith has been shaken, then we are going to need to either get some priests or some hypnotists on the case. We can’t change managers every 6 months if that is how long it takes them to lose faith, that way leads to madness….or to the way we have been for the last 15 years. They may be right to question him in some areas, but at the end of the day few of them have buckled down and actually worked their socks off. Ironically, I would say Ben Arfa has been the most consistent and hard working player in our whole squad. What does that say… πŸ˜•


  19. I think the biggest difference from last season is the amount of Injuries we have had. Also 3 key players loss of form (Cabaye, Tiote and Coloccini).

    Then smaller differences. Cabaye didn’t have a summer break and i think i read somewhere he battled depression after the Euro’s (sorry if that’s wrong haven’t really been keeping up with toon news recently).

    The 8 year contract hasn’t helped matter in my opinion, Pardew can afford to become complacent and he has.

    Im not naive enough to even suggest these are the only reasons or even are reasons for are poor season but imo these are major factors this season.


  20. Good point B&B and whether it affected Cisse’s form or not Ba carried us with his goals in the first half of this season but even that wasn’t enough to keep us out of trouble. I think you’re also right in part Newkie @97. So much went wrong this season it’s unbelievable. But the key is to turn it around next season. If that doesn’t happen in 10-12 games the supporters will abandon Pardew and the heat will be on Ashley again as it should be. All well and good to have a low paid manager who clearly doesn’t rock the boat with Ashley but that will only take us so far ie. maybe 10th-12th if we’re lucky. Is that really acceptable to most? And no hope for a domestic cup I would add. If by the end of October next season we are 8th or higher I would look carefully again at Pardew’s performance but I’m betting we won’t be there.


  21. Pards has certainly lost the fans a few times this season, the most notable being vehement choruses of “you don’t know what you’re doing”.

    Anyhow, let’s try to stay as positive as possible for as long as possible tonight and the travelling fans have better things to shout.


  22. Just won the champions league (The treble) with Newcastle in Football Manager πŸ˜€ Now I’m depressed because we are not that good in real life πŸ˜›

    Hurry up time and get to half seven…


  23. G2-I would agree with that. Survive and go out the Europa and Pards will have until November of next season I would say. It wouldn’t surprise me if we only just stumble over if Ashley has Carr scouting France for a manager during the summer….

    B+B-Aye, but the fans of wolves and blackburn sang that to Mccarthy and Keane and look how they ended up….It’s far from all of Pardews fault imo so he still has some respite for me.


  24. Jez just quickly scrolling through the post and thought I had stumbled on to an anti Pards blog, yeah we all know he isn’t the best same with his tavtics and shit he comes of with but by christ it gets boring as fuk when that isthe main topic of conversation for some, ffs change the record .

    Thank fuk we are playing tonight might get a bit of craic.


  25. The support for the team is always there. I hope we give them a great game. Something to remember us by. I hope Cabaye has his shooting boots on as with Cisse and Sissoko.


  26. Big D@105, B&B is getting everybody all het up mate on the eve of the big match. πŸ™‚

    This is a mega important 10 days for NUFC. 6 points in the league are far more important than this european jaunt πŸ˜‰


  27. Dave – We’ve been missing your craic, man. Now where is it? πŸ˜›

    Anti-Pards blog! 😯 Still a very long way to go. I’ll do what I can, but won’t make any promises. πŸ˜›

    Anyway, DiC has had as much grief as Pards today so we’re sharing it out. πŸ™

    Craic, Dave, craic! πŸ™‚


  28. Santii
    Never played it myself but my brother still boasts how about 7/8 years ago he got us to win the CL and PL with Shola getting 50 league goals 😯 . Those were the days when we still thought Shola had promise πŸ˜† . Mind you I wouldn’t have heard of him back then, didn’t care about football unless I was playing it. How times have changed


  29. Okay. Let’s have a moratorium on Pards bashing, at least until k.o.

    He’s had a shave, Dave. Looks lovely. πŸ˜› Do you prefer the clean shaven Pards, Dave? πŸ˜€


  30. MM aye mate you know me very little gets to me but I just get sick of the same shit over and over again.
    Yeah it is going to nbe important couple of weeks, a couple of wins would top it of nicely


  31. Getting a bit tense with you Dave, fella? 😯 Let’s have a bit of banter to take our minds of it. πŸ™‚


  32. Andy @109

    LOL Thats sounds like it would be harder to do than win the big treble πŸ˜€ I don’t think there was ever a time that we all didn’t think of Shola as a Big Donkey πŸ˜€


  33. I understand your feelings Big Dave @105. I think the disappointment of this season with the league standing and domestic cups has gotten to some of us more than others. I thought after last season that our days of scrambing to avoid relegation were gone for a long time to come. Still I hope Pardew lifts the team and we perform well for the rest of the season. That will restore some faith and confidence in him.


  34. @B&B 90
    Shot yourself in the foot there man.
    You claim that there is no proof of his homework as it isn’t paying dividends this year?
    I actually think this year is proof of how much planning he put into games last year.
    People always mention player fatigue, but the fact that we have had Europe has meant Pardew has had to spread the amount of preparation he does for each game among more matches, especially seeing as we’d have had near no information on some of the teams.
    We had nearly the best clean sheets record in the league, with a defence that contained Williamson, Simpson, and a poorer Santon/Raylor. How he organised that into a resolute defence (albeit with a weak mentality) is amazing.
    Jury is still out on whether he can mould us into a slick attacking force, but there is no doubting his “homework” paid dividends last year, and i’ll wager will next year.


  35. Solano@117, I have it from a source close to the club that Johnny Carver’s car is full of player reports for this season. They told me that Johnny forgot to give the Pardew reports to the players before the Man Utd game at the start of the season. Since then he has been scared of losing his job, so just kept storing the reports in the back of his car. His 2 spare bedrooms, and also the garden shed are also full of reports dating back to September last year.

    God knows what will happen when Pards finds out πŸ™


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