Newcastle will have to eliminate costly mistakes and overhaul a two-goal deficit if they are to avoid their impressive Europa League campaign coming to an end at the quarter-final stage. Papiss Cisse’s early goal gave Alan Pardew’s side a wonderful start in Lisbon seven days ago, but they were subsequently well-beaten after committing a series of inexplicable defensive errors.
After Rodrigo Moreno had equalised for the hosts, Lima gave them the lead after capitalising on a woeful Davide Santon backpass. In-form striker Oscar Cardozo then put the first-leg tie beyond any doubt from the penalty spot after Steven Taylor’s obvious handball.
Pardew bemoaned those individual blunders after the clash at the Estadio da Luz, but insisted he was otherwise delighted with the performance. His team were certainly more defensively astute in Saturday’s vital, confidence-boosting 1-0 triumph over Fulham, a result which sparked scenes of wild jubilation as it left Newcastle 13th in the Premier League and five points clear of the bottom three.
Pardew has not been coy in blaming the club’s persistent injury woes on their continued involvement in this season’s Europa League, but has so far largely resisted the considerable urge to rest key first-team players throughout the competition. That resolve will presumably be sorely tested this week as Newcastle face a critical North-East derby against Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland on Sunday afternoon.
Benfica, meanwhile, will be hopeful of avoiding an upset at St James’s Park after continuing their imperious domestic form at the weekend. Eduardo Salvio and Nemanja Matic both netted to secure a comfortable 2-0 win over S.C. Olhanese, the club’s 21 victory of an unbeaten season. Jorge Jesus’ men have now won eight consecutive games and they will be confident of adding to the 107 goals they have scored in all competitions this season.
Newcastle Probable Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1) – Krul (GK); Haidara, Yanga-Mbiwa, Williamson, Simpson; Marveaux; Obertan, Sissoko, Gutierrez; Cisse.
Benfica Probable Starting Line-Up (4-4-2) – Moraes (GK); Almeida, Garay, Luisao, Malgarejo; John, Perez, Matic, Gaitan; Rodrigo, Cardozo.
Prediction: Newcastle United 1-2 Benfica
Benfica will start as the favorites considering their form and also the amount of first team players that Newcastle are missing for this match. This should be a closely fought match in comparison to the one that took place in Portugal, simply because Newcastle will be pushed by the fantastic home support, but Benfica have more quality on the pitch. The Portuguese side should win this match along with the tie.