Asprilla's form gives hope to Newcastle

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The Independent Online
Faustino Asprilla's uplifting record in Europe tonight gives Kenny Dalglish the chance to join the high rollers in the casinos of Monte Carlo and risk all on one last throw.

The stakes are substantial, with Dalglish's Newcastle United 1-0 down against Monaco and 90 minutes away from missing out on a Uefa Cup semi- final that would rescue their crumbling season.

Asprilla, who has claimed five of his six goals this season in Uefa Cup ties, was a spectator - along with Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand and Peter Beardsley - for the first leg. His suspension now served, the Colombian, on whom Kevin Keegan gambled pounds 7.5m, is free to take on the French league leaders.

"European football just seems to be his scene and we're all hoping that he'll provide us with the flair and the goals," his team-mate Keith Gillespie said. "Tino is back and so is Peter Beardsley. Monaco will face a different Newcastle and if they sit back it could be costly."

Patrick Blondeau, a member of the Monaco defence who have kept three successive clean sheets, is aware that Asprilla scored twice against another French side, Metz, in the previous round. "He is fantastic and will be an extra danger," he said. "Let's be calm and avoid going out to try to overrun them."

Dalglish, who described Jean Tigana's classy team as "easily the best side in France" does not expect them to change their counter-attacking style . However, Newcastle may benefit from what he calls the apprehensive home team syndrome. "Although I don't think they will change the way they play we've got to hope they're a bit uncertain about what they're going to do," he said.

The Newcastle manager particularly hopes that the Brazilian Sonny Anderson and the pacy teenager Thierry Henry lose their way, while Tigana is wary of a Newcastle's natural resilience.

"While we know we have the potential to score at any moment I fear the British mental strength," said Tigana, perhaps forgetting the many different passports on view when Newcastle's 18-strong party left Tyneside yesterday.

Monaco expected to make only one change from the first leg, with Emmanuel Petit returning at the expense of the Scot John Collins, who is likely to start on the bench. The keeper Fabien Barthez may play in a protective mask after fracturing a cheekbone in a collision with Darren Peacock in the first leg.

Asprilla will be sent out despite twisting his ankle in Saturday's 4- 0 home win against Coventry City, but Ferdinand's hamstring strain gives him little chance of playing.

Dalglish has to decide whether to play Asprilla on his own up front - as Keegan did in the away leg against Metz - or pair him with Beardsley. If he opts for a five-man midfield will it include Beardsley, or for that matter, David Ginola?

The Frenchman played against Coventry, ahead of Gillespie, but that was his first league start under Dalglish and it will be the final humiliation if he were to be left out tonight.

Internazionale are also looking to the cup to salvage a shaky season and their coach, Roy Hodgson, will have his strongest line-up for the return leg at home to Anderlecht. Hodgson, who leaves for Blackburn Rovers this summer, has the Chilean striker Ivan Zamorano, France's Youri Djorkaeff, the Swiss midfielder Ciriaco Sforza, the Argentinian Javier Zanetti and England's Paul Ince all fit for the tie, which stands at 1-1.

The Anderlecht coach, Johan Boskamp, spent the weekend in a hospital with kidney stones, but had to leave early to catch the plane to Milan.

Valencia, who trail 2-0 to Germany's Schalke 04, are relying on a fiesta atmosphere to progress. A crowd of 50,000 is expected for a tie that takes place in the middle of the city's Fallas festival, which is famous for its nightly fireworks displays and the torching of gigantic effigies - often of politicians.

Dalglish would not mind Asprilla setting the Monte Carlo waterfront alight either.

n Gary Neville is doubtful for Manchester United's European Cup quarter- final, second leg away to Porto. The defender is suffering the after-effects of a tackle by Regi Blinker during the match against Sheffield Wednesday at Old Trafford on Saturday. Neville's brother, Philip, is on standby for his first start for three months as United protect a 4-0 first-leg advantage.

English clubs' route to Europe


(Two or three): First two in the Premiership and Manchester United if they win this season's Champions' League. If United qualify on both counts, the third-placed team does not qualify as well.


(One or two): FA Cup winners plus Liverpool if they win this season's Cup-Winners' Cup and finish outside the top two in the Premiership (Champions' League takes precedence).


(Four or five): Third, fourth and fifth-placed finishers (or lower-placed if those clubs qualify for Europe by other means), the Coca-Cola Cup winners, and Newcastle if they win this season's Uefa Cup and finish outside the top two in the Premiership. This includes a place awarded for England topping the 1995/96 Fair Play League. This is the last year the Coca-Cola Cup winners will qualify for Europe. In future, the relevant Uefa Cup place will revert to a high-finishing Premiership side.

It is possible - but very unlikely - for the 10th-placed team to qualify for Europe. This scenario requires Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle to each win their European competition while also finishing outside the Premiership's top two; Chelsea or Wimbledon to win the FA Cup and finish in the top eight; Leicester to win the Coca-Cola Cup and finish in the top nine.