Europa League: 5 things Newcastle need to do to overturn Benfica deficit
A two-goal deficit is not something you would like to take into the second leg of your tie against a team like Benfica. But what’s done can’t be undone, and it’s exactly the daunting prospect that lies in front of Newcastle tonight when they take the field against Benfica. However, with the game at their own backyard and an away goal to help them along, it will be very surprising if the Geordies don’t back themselves to get past the Portuguese outfit.
However, it has to be a concerted all-round effort to see this one out, and as we have witnessed in recent games in the Champions League, it’s never over till its over. Here are 5 things that Newcastle need to do to excel tonight at St. James’ Park.
A clinical Cissé
Papiss Cissé is finally firing, and that has really helped the Magpies, since he is now their only real option upfront. The Senegal international has scored 5 in his last 8 games, and once each time in Newcastle’s last four home games. The goals have certainly helped Newcastle in both the domestic as well as the European front, but Cissé has been wasteful as well. If not for the forward managing to hit the post twice at Lisbon a week ago, the tie would have had a completely different complexion. His wastefulness was there for show at the weekend as well, as he managed to hit the post from two yards out, while also failing to set up Sylvain Marveaux when all he had to do was roll the ball across. Cisse will have to be at his best to romp home any advantage that may arise, and going by the game at the Estádio da Luz, there should be plenty for him to feast on.
Involving Sylvain Marveaux
In Sylvain Marveaux, Newcastle can add another X-factor to their side going forward. The Frenchman has been in inspirational form since the turn of the year and his exclusion from the first 11 on many occasions by Alan Pardew has left the Newcastle faithful bewildered. The Frenchman’s creativity will have to come to the fore, like it did against Stoke and in the first leg, if Newcastle hope to come out on top when the final whistle blows.
Shutting down the hole
Newcastle faced the most trouble when the likes of Rodrigo and Matic found space in between the defensive line and the midfield. Rodrigo especially exploited the space to his full advantage, as he wreaked havoc in the final third with his explosive speed. With Cheikh Tiote and James Perch likely to fill in for the injured Steven Taylor at the back, it will be up to the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Vurnon Anita to shut down the space for the dangerous Rodrigo and others to operate.
A five minute spell of self-destruction from Newcastle was all it took to hand over the impetus to Benfica. A sloppy back pass that was intercepted and scored off by Lima, followed by a dubious Steven Taylor handball, turned the game on its head. If Newcastle are not careful at the back, it won’t matter how much they can throw towards Benfica’s goal. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who himself has been sloppy of late, will have to lead a depleted back-line to keep Newcastle in the tie.
Crank up the atmosphere
Newcastle are blessed with one of the most vibrant, emotional and loyal fans in world football. Newcastle’s home form has been the only thing that has kept their season from falling apart. They come into the game unbeaten in their six last games, having won five of them. Newcastle would look to their fans once again to spur them on in this game. The prospect of playing in front of 50,000 Geordies shouting at the top of their lungs is certainly a daunting prospect for any away team. Newcastle need to feed off the passion of the crowd in their quest to ending their trophy drought, that now exceeds four decades.