Newcastle will have to eliminate costly mistakes and overhaul a two-goal deficit if they are to avoid their impressive Europa League campaign coming to an end at the quarter-final stage. Papiss Cisse’s early goal gave Alan Pardew’s side a wonderful start in Lisbon seven days ago, but they were subsequently well-beaten after committing a series of inexplicable defensive errors. After Rodrigo Moreno had equalised for the hosts, Lima gave them the lead after capitalising on a woeful Davide Santon backpass. In-form striker Oscar Cardozo then put the first-leg tie beyond any doubt from the penalty spot after Steven Taylor’s obvious handball.
Pardew bemoaned those individual blunders after the clash at the Estadio da Luz, but insisted he was otherwise delighted with the performance. His team were certainly more defensively astute in Saturday’s vital, confidence-boosting 1-0 triumph over Fulham, a result which sparked scenes of wild jubilation as it left Newcastle 13 in the Premier League and five points clear of the bottom three. Pardew has not been coy in blaming the club’s persistent injury woes on their continued involvement in this season’s Europa League, but has so far largely resisted the considerable urge to rest key first-team players throughout the competition. That resolve will presumably be sorely tested this week as Newcastle face a critical North-East derby against Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland on Sunday afternoon.
Benfica, meanwhile, will be hopeful of avoiding an upset at St James’s Park after continuing their imperious domestic form at the weekend. Eduardo Salvio and Nemanja Matic both netted to secure a comfortable 2-0 win over S.C. Olhanese, the club’s 21 victory of an unbeaten season. Jorge Jesus’ men have now won eight consecutive games and they will be confident of adding to the 107 goals they have scored in all competitions this season.
KICK-OFF: Thursday, 8.05pm
Benfica 3 (Moreno, Lima, Cardozo) Newcastle 1 (Cisse), Europa League, knock-out phase, April 2013
Papiss Cisse has been caught offside 12 times in this season’s Europa League. Only Fenerbahce’s Moussa Sow (17) has been flagged more often.
The Senegalese striker’s last-minute winner against Fulham on Sunday was the fourth time he has scored in the 90 minute this season.
Newcastle have been awarded 55 free-kicks in the competition so far, more than any other team.
Benfica have not progressed in any of their previous five European quarter-final meetings against English clubs.
Newcastle to win: 3.0
Benfica to win: 2.4
TV: Live on ITV4 at 8.05pm.