Newcastle's milestone rekindles past glories

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The Independent Online

One way or another, it is going to be a night for turning back the clocks at St James' Park. Having launched themselves into Continental competition with a 4-0 thrashing of Feyenoord on Tyneside back in September 1968, Newcastle United reach the 100 mark in European matches this evening with the second leg of their Uefa Cup round-of-16 tie against Olympiakos. The occasion could well be marked with further reason to reflect on past glory.

One way or another, it is going to be a night for turning back the clocks at St James' Park. Having launched themselves into Continental competition with a 4-0 thrashing of Feyenoord on Tyneside back in September 1968, Newcastle United reach the 100 mark in European matches this evening with the second leg of their Uefa Cup round-of-16 tie against Olympiakos. The occasion could well be marked with further reason to reflect on past glory.

Graeme Souness's side are on a winning run of seven matches. Another victory tonight would put them into the club record books alongside some pretty hallowed company. Only three Newcastle teams have won eight in a row in all competitions: Kevin Keegan"s Premiership newcomers of 1994-95 and the club's last two championship-winning sides, the Hughie Gallacher-inspired class of 1926-27 and the Edwardian Magpies of 1908-1909.

Thanks to their 3-1 victory in the fiery first leg in Piraeus last Thursday, though, even a draw or a one-goal defeat would still put Souness's men through to the quarter-finals of the Uefa Cup - the competition that the fledgling European Magpies proceeded to win, in the guise of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, after their flying start against Feyenoord back in the 1968-69 season.

Alan Shearer's father was one of the Geordies who flocked to St James' to follow that fondly remembered run to what remains, 36 years later, Newcastle's most recent major trophy success. Invited yesterday to select his own favourite moment in Europe with his home-town club, the Newcastle captain responded: "I hope I'm going to be sitting here in a couple of months talking about the greatest night.

"I've allowed myself to look at the teams still left in the competition and I don't think there's anything that we fear. We've got a great chance - we really have - but we've got to make sure we get through this tie first. We've worked hard to get ourselves into this position. It would be criminal for us to throw it away."

Newcastle have never before thrown away a two-goal advantage at home in a second leg in Europe. Without the ineligible Jean-Alain Boumsong and the injured Titus Bramble, they will have Steven Taylor and Andy O'Brien at the heart of their defence. With Patrick Kluivert and Shola Ameobi both doubtful starters, they might also have Kieron Dyer of James Milner supporting Shearer in attack.

Olympiakos travelled without the Brazilian World Cup winner Rivaldo, who has an ankle injury.

Newcastle United (probable, 4-4-2): Given; Carr, Taylor, O'Brien, Hughes; Dyer, Butt, Faye, Robert; Shearer, Ameobi.

Olympiakos (probable, 3-5-2): Nikopolidis; Pantos, Anatolakis, Schurrer; Kafes, Djordjevic, Stolidis, Maric, Mavrogenidis; Okkas, Giovanni.

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