Newcastle’s curious love-hate relationship with this season’s Europa League continues with a trip to face in-form Benfica. Despite the Toon’s impressive run in the competition, manager Alan Pardew lambasted the packed schedule following the club’s heavy 4-0 Premier League defeat to Manchester City last weekend. Newcastle have suffered badly with injury worries throughout the season, and Pardew blamed the ongoing fitness crisis at St James’ Park directly on their continued participation in this competition.
Those injury struggles have seen Newcastle struggle considerably in domestic competition, and Newcastle currently sit just three points above the dreaded relegation zone. In stark contrast, their opponents are enjoying a prosperous campaign. As well as progressing to the Europa League quarter-finals, Jorge Jesus’ men currently occupy top spot in the Portuguese Primeira Liga and have also reached the semi-finals of their domestic cup competition.
Benfica have netted an impressive 102 goals already this term, six of which came during their thrashing of Rio Ave on Saturday, and Paraguayan frontman Oscar Cardozo has been in lethal form of late, scoring three in his last four outings.
KICK-OFF: Thursday, 8.05pm
Newcastle and Benfica have never met in European competition.
Benfica have been knocked out in all of their previous five European quarter-finals against English clubs.
If he features for Newcastle, it will be Shola Ameobi’s 50 appearance for the club in European competition.
Newcastle have kept four consecutive clean sheets in this season’s Europa League. A fifth at the Estadio da Luz would set a Europe League record.
The last time Newcastle reached the final four of this competition was in 2004/05. On that occasion, they were knocked out by Benfica’s fierce rivals, Sporting.
Benfica defender Luisao has notched up 43 total appearances in the UEFA Cup/Europa League, second only to FC Basel’s David Degen, who has 44.
Benfica to win: 1.44
Newcastle to win: 7.0
TV: Live on ITV4 at 8.05pm.