Football: Handicaps add to Dalglish's defiance

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The Independent Online
Injuries and suspensions have dogged Newcastle's European campaign but Simon Turnbull finds Kenny Dalglish in a positive frame of mind for tonight's match against PSV Eindhoven.

There are to be no official bonfires in Newcastle tonight. The city council has delayed them by 24 hours. The hope is that Newcastle United will be keeping the home fires burning.

Not that anyone is expecting a repeat of the pyrotechnics which lit up St James' Park the last time Newcastle played there in the Champions' League. For one thing, Faustino Asprilla, who sparked the spectacular 3-2 beating of Barcelona, will be confined to a seat in the Milburn Stand.

That is not the only handicap with which Kenny Dalglish has to contend as he plots how to bring about the downfall of the Dutch champions, PSV Eindhoven. Alan Shearer is also still on the injured list, David Batty and Robert Lee are suspended, and his defence is in apparent disarray.

There was a hint of the bunker mentality in Dalglish's pre-match press conference. "There's a defeatist attitude that seems to be hanging round the place like a bad smell," Dalglish said, "but we're going into the game in a positive frame of mind."

It is difficult not to sympathise with Dalglish's plight. He has been deprived of not just Asprilla and Shearer but of Stuart Pearce and Alessandro Pistone too.

Newcastle have, as Dalglish felt obliged to remind the critics, still made their mark in the Champions' League, beating Barcelona and drawing against Dynamo Kiev. They were rather tame 1-0 losers in Eindhoven a fortnight ago but they did beat PSV 3-2 in the pre-season Dublin International Tournament.

That, however, was at a time when Dalglish had an embarrassment of firepower at his disposal. Even with Asprilla away of World Cup duty, Les Ferdinand and Peter Beardsley were confined to bench duty as Jon Dahl Tomasson struck up an instantly profitable striking partnership with Shearer.

The Dane was razor-sharp that night, scoring twice and setting up Newcastle's other goal for Keith Gillespie. His finishing has been blunt ever since.

He did open his Premiership account on Saturday, albeit by brushing Des Hamilton's goalbound header with his chest. And he will be the focal point for Newcastle's attacking again tonight, most likely with Temur Ketsbaia rather than Ian Rush in support.

At the other end, Pistone could make his long-awaited return, and Newcastle are likely to need the Italian's assured presence to deal with the threat posed by Luc Nilis, who scored against Shay Given at Lansdowne Road a week ago, and PSV's other Belgian striker, the volatile Gilles de Bilde.

The Eindhoven squad suffered a jolt before they even arrived on Tyneside, when their plane was struck by a truck as it stood on the runway prior to departure.

In the 21 European ties staged at St James' Park only three visiting teams have avoided a loss: Southampton (in 1969), Bastia (in 1977) and Monaco (in March this year).

Bastia and Monaco were victorious but no continental team has drawn on Tyneside. In the absence of fireworks, parity tonight would, at least, be something never before seen at St James' Park.

Newcastle United (probable): Given; Pistone, Albert, Peacock, Beresford, Watson, Gillespie, Barnes, Barton, Ketsbaia, Tomasson.

PSV Eindhoven (probable): Waterreus; Vampeta, Stam, Faber, Numan, Petrovic, Jonk, Cocu, Nilis, De Bilde, Iwan.