We return to Lisbon next week, where we lost to Benifca’s fierce city rivals Sporting Lisbon back April 2005.
The bookmakers don’t rate United’s chances, and that can only be good for Newcastle, because they didn''t rate us when we won the Fairs Cup back in 1969 either.
With Benfica leading the Portuguese league, and particularly strong at home, Newcastle are 20/1 outsiders to win the competition.
I can live with that, and I''m sure the players can too.
As for 2005 - do you need reminding of it?
The team, managed by Graeme Souness, had taken a 2-0 aggregate lead in their UEFA Cup quarter-final thanks to a goal from Kieron Dyer, then Jermaine Jenas, Kieron Dyer and Titus Bramble left the field injured.
And Newcastle left Portugal on the wrong end of a 4-1 defeat.SPORTING LISBON 4 NEWCASTLE 1 SPORTING: Ricardo, Anderson Polga, Rogerio, Rui Jorge, Beto, Carlos Martins (Pedro Barbosa 67), Rochemback, Joao Moutinho, Sa Pinto (Custodio 89), Niculae (Pinilla 75), Douala.Subs Not Used: Nelson, Tello, Miguel Garcia, Mota. NEWCASTLE: Given, Carr, Bramble (Andrew O''Brien 57), Taylor, Babayaro, Jenas (Milner 46), Faye, Bowyer, N''Zogbia, Dyer (Kluivert 60), Shearer.Subs Not Used: Harper, Ameobi, Ambrose, Butt. Att: 45,000
Newcastle's UEFA Cup adventure came to an agonising end in Portugal as Sporting Lisbon staged a magnificent fightback to book their place in the semi-finals.A day which started badly with newspapers back in England reporting winger
Laurent Robert''s latest grumbles ended in devastation as the Magpies established a 2-0 lead in the tie and then had it snatched from their grasp.
Kieron Dyer''s 20th-minute strike put the visitors, who arrived in Portugal with a 1-0 first leg lead, firmly in the driving seat, but they failed to build upon it as chances went begging, and when they started to wilt, Jose Peseiro''s men went for the kill.
Marius Niculae levelled five minutes before half-time with a powerful header, but with Titus Bramble and Kieron Dyer both limping off before the hour-mark and Graeme Souness'' gamble to start with 18-year-old Frenchman Charles N''Zogbia backfiring, there was worse to come.
Sa Pinto levelled the tie with 19 minutes remaining and Roberto Beto''s 77th-minute header gave Sporting an aggregate lead which grew in injury-time with Fabio Rochemback''s finish.
The Portuguese side will meet Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in the semi-finals with the prize of the final at their own Jose Alvalade Stadium up for grabs; Newcastle will return to England with their squad once again depleted and with heavy hearts to face Manchester United in Sunday''s FA Cup semi-final knowing that their season will end in south Wales if they do not pick themselves up quickly.
Peseiro had predicted before the match that his side would score, that Newcastle would not and that the former would win, but he was only partially correct.
Sporting did indeed score, a powerful header by Romanian striker Niculae breaching Shay Given''s defences five minutes before half-time, and they would have done so again four minutes later had the Irishman not thrown out a hand to deflect away a rocket of a volley from Joao Moutinho.
However, before that flurry of activity, emergency striker Dyer had put the Magpies ahead on the night and 2-0 on aggregate, running away from defender Anderson Polga and cheekily slipping the ball through keeper Ricardo''s legs to send the 1,200 or so travelling fans into raptures.
Newcastle might have extended their lead further - Lee Bowyer and Dyer both had good chances which went begging - but although the visitors threatened repeatedly on the break, they were having to defend tigerishly at the back.
N''Zogbia, with just two previous starts to his name, was thrown in at the deep end in one of six changes to the side which lost 1-0 at Tottenham on Sunday, although it was the inclusion of walking wounded Given, Dyer, Celestine Babayaro and, just 31 days after he underwent surgery on a hernia, Bramble which was the bigger gamble.
Bramble, for a man who has barely kicked a football in a month, rarely looked troubled despite the tide of pressure which came his way during the first-half, but it was 19-year-old partner Steven Taylor who caught the eye with a performance far beyond his years.
They were not alone as wave after wave of Sporting attacks were repelled, Jermaine Jenas, Amdy Faye and Bowyer helping to cover the back four as the pacy Roudolphe Douala searched, largely in vain, for the space to hurt Newcastle.
As the half-time whistle sounded, the visitors knew they were close, but also that they had an immensely difficult 45 minutes ahead of them, and so it proved.
Jenas failed to re-appear after the break and James Milner took his place wide on the right, and the newcomer could have effectively sealed his side''s progression within three minutes after Bramble played in Dyer on the right, but despite setting himself well, he drove his shot straight at Ricardo.
Sporting defender Rui Jorge was similarly wasteful two minutes later after Taylor''s challenge on the edge of the penalty area presented the ball invitingly to him, but he drilled his effort over the bar with just Given to beat.
However, the Magpies were dealt a double blow as the clock ticked towards the hour mark when both Bramble and Dyer limped off, Andy O''Brien and Patrick Kluivert joining the fray with a battle still to be fought.
Beto planted a 61st-minute header just wide from a Carlos Martins corner, but the home side were becoming increasingly desperate and Peseiro threw on skipper Pedro Barbosa for the impressive Carlos Martins with 22 minutes remaining.
Kluivert should have done better a minute later when he was found in acres of space down the right, and Newcastle were made to pay with 19 minutes remaining when, after O''Brien had miskicked on the edge of the box, Barbosa fired in a shot which Given could only parry and Sa Pinto tapped home the rebound to set up an agonising finale.
It got worse for Newcastle with 13 minutes remaining when defender Beto climbed high to power a header past Given from a Rochemback corner, and now the visitors were on the verge of elimination.
Souness'' side threw everything they had at their hosts with time fast running out, but they were toothless and their fate was sealed in injury-time when Rochemback capitalised on an error by Stephen Carr to make it 4-1 on the night.
Source: Newcastle United Mad