Preview: Benfica vs. Newcastle United

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew before kick-off in the match against Manchester City on March 30, 2013
© PA Photos
Sports Mole looks ahead to Newcastle United's Europa League clash away in Portugal against Benfica.

Newcastle United have struggled to replicate the form that they showed in the Premier League last season this time around.

However, few teams have been more impressive in the Europa League this season than Alan Pardew's side.

They go into Thursday's quarter-final opening leg away in Portugal having not conceded in any of their last four encounters in the competition. If they were to keep a fifth clean sheet at Estadio da Luz, then they will have set a Europa League record for most consecutive shut outs.

The Magpies can also take heart from the fact that Benfica have never defeated an English club in the last eight of a UEFA competition, despite having had five attempts. Newcastle, though, have failed to win on either of their trips to Portugal.

Pardew has tended to rotate his playing squad in Europe this season and he has been tipped to continue that tactic on Thursday. That may mean that the likes of Shola Ameobi, Sylvain Marveaux and James Perch could all be included in the starting lineup.

Meanwhile, Benfica, who warmed up for this encounter with a 6-1 win over Rio Ave on Saturday, are likely to select veteran midfielder Pablo Aimar from the start.

Recent form

Benfica: WWWWLW

Newcastle: LWLWLL

Possible starting lineups

Benfica: Moraes; Luisao, Garay, Pereira, Melgarejo; Perez, Gaitan, Matic, Aimar; Lima, Rodrigo

Newcastle: Elliot; Santon, Yanga-Mbiwa, Taylor, Simpson; Cabaye, Perch, Anita, Obertan; Sissoko; Ameobi

Sports Mole says: 1-1

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa
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