Venue: St. James’ Park, Newcastle, England
Kick off: 20:05 GMT, Thursday 14th March
Referee: Deniz Aytekin (Germany)
A defensively robust performance at the freezing Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow saw Newcastle come out of the first leg of their tie against Anzhi Makhachkala unscathed, courtesy of a goalless draw. With a come-from-behind win at the weekend to boost their morale and home advantage to spur them on, the Magpies would look make it through to the quarter-finals of the competition.
However, the absence of an away goal could make it quite a tricky affair for the Tynesiders. A goal from the Russians would mean that Newcastle will have to beat them outright in the game but the advantage of playing in their own backyard should edge Newcastle as the favourites going into the game.
Two teams built on two polar opposite economic schemes but with the common goal of lifting the trophy at Amsterdam in May. This would be biggest European night for both Newcastle as well as Anzhi for some years. While Newcastle would welcome the chance the to bring home a trophy for the first time in 44 years, Dagestani billionaire Suleyman Kerimov would be looking at the Europa League as the first step in his grand scheme of things.
Newcastle have been on a good run in the Premier League with 4 wins in their last 6. The new faces brought into the squad in January certainly have had an impact on the results, with the likes Moussa Sissoko, Mathieu Debuchy and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa adding a new dimension to the team.
On the European front, Newcastle have dominated their competition in the Europa League owing to their resolute defensive performances, which has seen them yet to concede a goal in the knock-out stages of the competition. The problem for Newcastle however has been scoring in the Europa League with the Magpies failing to find the back of the net from open play for more than seven hours.
Anzhi haven’t had many games from which we can assess their form from. The Russian Premier league has only just resumed this month. So they have had to do with playing in friendlies and training in the middle east to keep off the rust in between the Europa League fixtures.
However, their recent loss to FC Morodovia Saransk won’t do their morale any good coming into this vital fixture. The loss leaves them still in second place trailing leaders CSKA Moscow by five points. They have lost the edge in the tie with the draw at home but they have quality to progress having scored 26 goals in the competition (highest for any team).
The Geordies will have to wait a tad bit longer before seeing their enigmatic Frenchman Hatem Ben Arfa back in full flight. The Frenchman suffered another setback in his comeback and is due to see a specialist. Pardew is however hopeful to have him back fit for the game against Wigan at the weekend, which seems to indicate that it wasn’t such a big knock.
Rob Elliot continues to remain between the posts for Newcastle with Tim Krul still out with an ankle injury. Fabricio Coloccini and Ryan Taylor are still injured as is Slovenian youngster Haris Vuckic. Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy won’t be able to take part as they remain ineligible.
Willian remains the big absentee for Anzhi as their €35 million new Brazilian signing has failed to recover from a knock he picked up against Newcastle in the first leg. The midfielder didn’t accompany his team to England.
Mbark Boussoufa however, is available for selection after serving a one-match suspension in the first leg of this tie.
The ex-Premier league duo of Yuri Zhirkov and Lassana Diarra are expected to make an appearance.
Newcastle: Elliot; Simpson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Perch, Haidara; Cabaye, Anita; Sissoko, Marveaux, Shola Ameobi
Anzhi: Gabulov; Eschenko, João Carlos, Ewerton, Jucilei; Shatov, Zhirkov, Akhmedov, Diarra; Traore, Eto’oPublished 14 Mar 2013, 14:41 IST