Newcastle v Benfica – Europa League preview and team news

After their dramatic late victory over Fulham at the weekend took them one step closer to Premier League survival, Newcastle must rely on those reserves of strength once again if they are to progress through to their first European semi final since 2004.

Despite impressing early on in Lisbon last week in the opening leg, opening the scoring through Papiss Cisse, who would later go on to hit the post twice, Alan Pardew’s men were eventually overwhelmed by Benfica’s superb attacking football, eventually went down 3-1.

The task ahead of the Magpies is certainly not impossible – a two goal victory would send them through – but with the Portuguese giants’ strength undoubtedly lying in their forward players, it is difficult not seeing Jorge Jesus’ men scoring at St James’ Park, particularly with the likes of Oscar Cardozo, Rodrigo, Nicolas Gaitan, Lima and Pablo Aimar, who did not even get off the bench at the Estadio da Luz, at their disposal.

However, the hosts could call upon key winger Hatem Ben Arfa, who had been expected to miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury, to make a return from the substitutes bench.

“Hatem has made an unbelievable recovery,” said Ben Arfa’s manager, Pardew.

“He will be involved tomorrow and I’m sure if he’s needed he will be somebody who can turn the game.”

The Frenchman’s return will boost the Magpies, who will be missing the ineligible Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran, as well as the injured Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon and Cheick Tiote.

In addition, Steven Taylor, whose form has been so impressive of late that he received a call up to Roy Hodgson’s England squad for their recent World Cup qualifiers, is also a doubt of picking up a knee injury in training.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Newcastle v Benfica

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