Newcastle v FC Metalist Kharkiv – Match Preview
Newcastle United v FC Metalist Kharkiv
Thursday 14 February 2012 8.05pm (live on ESPN)
After a couple of months off, we are back on the European express and another new club to tick off our list of continental opposition.
The emerging strength of the Russian/Ukrainian clubs is reflected in there being three teams from each country in this last 32, England having four.
With financial backing, Metalist have a big South American presence in the team/squad and Alan Pardew has spoken of his admiration of their playing style and is expecting the visitors to keep the ball for long periods and try to upset Newcastle’s tempo.
A bit of a strange one for both teams in terms of preparation.
For the visitors, they are in the middle of a winter break and won’t be back playing league football until March. When it comes to Alan Pardew’s preparations, our opposition started their winter break before the Europa League was made and so he and his staff haven’t had the opportunity to watch Metalist in a live competitive match. Though of course the friendly at Whitley Bay on Sunday did give our manager at least a look at their players in a rather different scenario to what the two teams will face tonight.
The big lift of course from our perspective is a major shift by the manager/Newcastle United in terms of having a real go at this competition. Most fans were probably like myself and assumed we were going to slip out of the Europa League almost unnoticed by neutrals with a heavily weakened team. Considering all the factors and Newcastle’s renewed confidence, it looks a really good bet for NUFC to win at 5/4.
That though has been swept aside with the manager promising his strongest knockout eleven yet, the only frontline players sure to miss being the injured Ben Arfa and Debuchy & Gouffran who aren’t now eligible to play. One player who appears certain to start is Moussa Sissoko and especially with Gouffran missing I can see him getting even more license to go forward and so I fancy SIssoko to score a goal at 7/2.
The expectation now is that we will be seeing a full strength United and simply waiting to see if Taylor or Coloccini make way for Mapou’s first start, plus there will be keen interest as well as to whether Massadio Haidara also makes his first start at left-back, Davide Santon potentially moving over to the right. I don’t think the visitors will be too adventurous and with a slightly different look defence I fancy a Tim Krul clean sheet at 8/5.
Metalist are currently fourth in their league and maybe our best guide as to their strength is the fact that they topped a strong looking group which included Bayer Leverkusen who are fifth in the Bundesliga, as well as Rapid Vienna and Rosenborg. Our visitors beat Leverkusen at home and drew away, two very decent results.
A record of 18 wins and 4 draws in our last 22 home UEFA Cup/Europa League matches is pretty impressive, even given the varied quality of the opposition in that set of opponents.
Defeat would therefore be a bit of a shock and an even bigger one considering the likely team that Newcastle will put out.
Best Odds on Tonight’s match – (Prices Can Fluctuate)
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