Newcastle attempt to overcome a 3-1 defecit tomorrow night when Benfica visit St James’ Park.
Defeat in the first leg means that progression to the Semi-Final will be a tough ask, but by the same token it’s not out of the question thanks to Papiss Cisse’s away goal in Lisbon last week.
In fact I witnessed enough last week to know that we’ll create chances against the Portuguese league leaders, although I also witnessed the fact that they look good in attack and are likely to create chances of their own. It’s sounds simple, but all we need to do is take our chances whilst preventing them from taking the ones they create. See, it’s dead easy when you think about it!
As we’ve now become accustomed to, Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy will be sitting this one out due to being ineligible to play for us in this competition. Fabricio Coloccini is close to a return and although unlikely to be risked in this game couls be available for the trip to West Brom in ten days time.
Massadio Haidara’s return to fitness is a timely boost now it looks like we’ll be missing Davide Santon for the remainder of the season. Santon will join Haris Vuckic and Ryan Taylor on the treatment table although the latter is closing in on a return and could feature before the end of the season.
Cheik Tiote could return after a muscle injury whilst Hatem Ben Arfa is also in contention to make an appearance after a surprise return to fitness although I get the distinct impression that it will only be a matter of time before he breaks down again. Steven Taylor is doubtful after picking up a knock in training.
Obviously we lost the first leg 3-1 last week in what was out first competitive fixture against Benfica. However we’ve never lost against Portuguese opposition on home soil which covers six visits of Portuguese sides to St James’ Park.
1968/69 – Sporting Lisbon – W 1-0
1968/69 – Vitoria Setubal – W 5-1
1969/70 – Porto – W 1-0
2004/05 – Sporting Lisbon – D 1-1
2004/05 – Sporting Lisbon – W 1-0
2012/13 – Maritimo – D 1-1
Stats and facts:
Mike Williamson could make his 100th appearance for United.
United are unbeaten in the last 13 home European fixtures. If you discount the Intertoto Cup that run extends to 24 matches.
A fifth home win on the bounce will be the first time we’ve managed that since the days of Sir Bobby Robson.
It’s officially a a sell out and our backs are against the wall so expect the fans to act like the 12th man from the off and get right behind the team as they look to overturn that first leg deficit.
However it won’t be easy. Benfica are now unbeaten in 30 games in a run which stretches back to the tail end of last season. They’ve also scored well over 100 goals already this term and keeping them from adding to their already impressive goals tally will be key if we are to progress to the Semi-Final.
But at the other end we need to be smart. We created decent chance at Estadio da Luz last week but wasted them through a combination of poor finishing and poor luck. We can’t afford to be so wasteful this time around as, even though the Benfica defence looked ropey, they can now afford to sit back and concentrate a bit more on the defensive side of things.
It’s intriguing. I know we can do it, no matter how against the odds it may be, and if we do it surely has to go down as one of our best results in recent times?
Howay the lads!
Date: Thursday, 11th April, 2013
Time: 8:05pm – Live on ITV4
Venue: St James’ Park