Pardew draws on Lennon insight
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has taken advice from his Celtic counterpart Neil Lennon about Benfica ahead of Thursday's Europa League quarter-final first leg in Lisbon.
Lennon's men played the Portuguese side in the group stages of the Champions League earlier this season, drawing 0-0 at Parkhead and losing 2-1 away. Pardew has been keen to gather as much information on Benfica as possible before his team's clash with them at the Estadio da Luz and revealed Lennon was among those he had been in touch with.
Speaking in Lisbon, Pardew said: "We have good contacts regarding this team. I know this city quite well and I have some contacts here who know Benfica well. There is also Neil Lennon who we have been in contact with. I think it is important to get as much information as you can - as I'm sure Benfica have done with us."
Benfica are top of the Portuguese Liga, have yet to lose a top-flight game this season and at the weekend took their tally for the campaign to 102 goals in all competitions. At home, they have only been beaten by Barca this term and since that 2-0 defeat in October, Jorge Jesus' team have registered 15 wins in 16 matches on their own turf.
Newcastle - currently 15th in the Barclays Premier League, just three points above the relegation zone - have managed only two wins on the road this season and go into this contest off the back of a 4-0 league defeat at Manchester City on Saturday. Pardew feels his players "lacked ambition" in the City game but is confident they can bounce back.
"It is a big test for us because I think with any team that is on such a roll as Benfica, it is going to be difficult," Pardew said. "They have great momentum and that confidence breeds its own success. But I think at St James' Park we can beat anybody - we have no doubt about that game.
"Here, we need to put on a performance so we can take something back to give us a chance (in the second leg). It will be difficult to contain them if we come here just to defend. I think both teams are good in possession and therefore, that will be a key element."
Pardew admits it is difficult to put thoughts about Newcastle's Premier League predicament to one side at the moment, but insists his injury-depleted team is capable of doing well both domestically and in Europe for the rest of the season.
Pardew has selected as strong a squad for the match as he could. Two players who sat out the City loss, Cheick Tiote (hamstring) and Massadio Haidara (knee), are missing from the 19-man group, along with expected absentees Fabricio Coloccini (back), Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring), Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran (both ineligible).
But defender Davide Santon, sidelined on Saturday by a thigh problem, and goalkeeper Tim Krul, out for the last seven games due to an ankle injury, have both been included, with Pardew indicating the latter will go straight back into the starting XI.
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