In terms of our “week of destiny” or so it has been labelled, this is game number two of three.
Following on from our last-gasp victory over Fulham we now have the task of trying to overcome a 3-1 first-leg deficit against a Benfica side who look rather handy.
It’s a difficult task but not unachievable thanks to an away goal scored by Papiss Cisse last Thursday. Unfortunately for us though, two lapses in concentration, or defensive howlers if you prefer, have left us with work to do if we are to reach the Semi-Final of the Europa League. If we can get past this one it has to go down as one of our best nights in recent years such is the scale of the task at hand.
A full house at St James’ Park will pretty much guarantee that the lads have vocal backing throughout the match. When backs are against the wall the folk of Tyneside tend to come out fighting and Benfica can expect a raucous atmosphere inside the ground. An early goal in favour of the home side will only serve to increase the volume levels.
United will have to go to battle without several first-team players missing through injury and through being ineligible to play in this competition for us. However on the plus side, for tonight anyway, we have Hatem Ben Arfa available after recovering sufficiently from a hamstring injury earlier than expected. As a further boost in general, United will be boosted by the return of several more first-team players ahead of the visit of Sunderland on Sunday.
For details of exactly how many injuries we are carrying, some detail about the match along with some stats and facts about this game and our participation in Europe in general, then why not click here and read my match preview of the game if you haven’t already done so?
The game itself is being shown live on what was formerly known as Liverpool TV but is now simply referred to as ITV4. That means that a lot of those who weren’t able to grab tickets to the game will be able to watch it live on the box. It’s also scheduled for live broadcast in lots of overseas countries but although it’s easily accessible there will still be people who need to watch it via a stream, so if you happen to find a good stream then please feel free to share it by leaving a link in the ‘comments’ section below.
Team news will be added at the bottom of this article and will be detailed in full as and when it becomes available. I’ll be at work and will be missing the game so once again it will be Big Dave who will be filling my boots and providing you with the teamsheets.
And that is just about that. Now it’s over to the ones that can make or break the night. Will we have more magical moments on Tyneside this evening? Or will the staff at St James’ Park be packing away the Europa League banners for an as yet unspecified amount of time?
Howay the lads!
Newcastle: Krul; Simpson, Williamson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Haidara; Bigirimana, Cabaye (c), Anita, Gutierrez; Sissoko; Cisse.
Subs: Elliot, Perch, Gosling, Marveaux, Ben Arfa, Campbell, Shola Ameobi
Benfica: Artur, Luisao, Garay, Almeida, Gaitan, Matic, Perez, Lima, John, Salvio, Melgarego
Subs: Lopes, Cardoza, Aimar, Pereira, Rodrigo, Jardel, Gomes.