Newcastle United travel to the Dynamo Stadium on Thursday to face Russian high-flyers Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League round-of-sixteen.
The match kicks of at 5pm and Alan Pardew will need a big performance from his side if they are to take something back to St. James’ Park.
Anzi Makhachkala are firing on all cylinders at present under the tutelage of Guus Hiddink. The Russian side have not lost a home game in Europe this season, winning all seven. They have scored 12 goals at home and conceded just once.
Hiddink’s side overcame German outfit Hannover 4-2 on aggregate in the previous round and are currently second in the Russian Premier League with 41 points from just 19 games. They are a formidable side and are also unbeaten at home in their domestic league.
Newcastle scraped past Metalist Kharkiv to progress to the round-of-sixteen, in what was an uninspiring tie. The 0-1 win in Ukraine was the Magpies first away win in Europe this season and only came as a result of a late Shola Ameobi penalty.
Newcastle have history against Guus Hiddink, beating his PSV Eindhoven side over two legs in the 2003-04 UEFA Cup quarter-finals. However, they have been inconsistent in the English Premier League and find themselves in 15th place, just six points outside the relegation places. The Europa League has been a much-welcomed distraction from the domestic lethargy on show most weekends.
Anzhi have no injury concerns ahead of the game and will be at full-strength for the visit of Newcastle. Guus Hididnk has a number of high-profile players at his disposal and they should all start. Former Chelsea players, Yurii Zhirkov and Lassana Diarra will start in defence and midfield respectively. Samuel Eto’o and Willian form part of a devastating attack that will undoubtedly cause a lot of trouble for the Newcastle defence.
Hatem Ben Arfa is expected to return for Newcastle following a hamstring injury, but it is unknown whether Alan Pardew will start the Frenchman. Fabricio Coloccini has been ruled out with a back injury, in what is a huge blow to the Newcastle defence. Ryan Taylor remains sidelined with a knee injury and Shola Ameobi is expected to spearhead the Magpie’s attack as Papiss Cisse has not been named in the travelling squad.
Players To Watch
Samuel Eto’o is one of the greatest strikers in recent memory. An illustrious career has seen the Cameroonian win almost everything the game has to offer, including back-to-back trebles with Barcelona and Inter Milan. At 31 year of age, Eto’o continues to perform brilliantly. He has scored 15 goals in 29 appearances for Anzhi this season and also has seven assists. Eto’o will be a thorn in the side of a Newcastle defence that are without the services of their captain, Fabricio Coloccini.
Shola Ameobi was the hero for Newcastle in the previous round, scoring a late penalty against Metalist Kharkiv. With Papiss Cisse not travelling, Ameobi will lead the line for Alan Pardew’s side. A big performance is needed from the burly attacker on Thursday and he will be a handful physically for Ewerton and Joao Carlos in the Anzhi defence.