Alan Pardew, the Newcastle United manager, was quick, following his side's plucky exit from the Europa League, to calm fears that the physical effort expended during the 1-1 draw with Portuguese league leaders Benfica won't affect his side ahead of the crunch Tyne-wear derby clash with Sunderland this Sunday.

Pardew must be working on the premise that with every repetition that his statement becomes truer, because despite placing the shackles on his side during the first half at St James' Park, the physical effort in the second half, coupled with the emotional pain of an eventual exit, leaves the Magpies struggling heading into the derby weekend.

The ex-West Ham United boss may have played a shrewd game in deploying Gael Bigirimana and Mike Williamson among others from the start for the first time since January, then requesting his team to hold firm in the opening 45 minutes, but the reality was much different.

Alan Pardew
Pardew is alone in his appreciation of the Europa League.

Benfica, on the evidence of their slick passing game, are the favorites for this season's Europa League and during a first half where Newcastle attempted to keep them at arms length, The Toon were run ragged. Nicolas Gaitan, a former target for Manchester City and Manchester United, has rediscovered his best form while Lima and Eduardo Silvio posed a constant threat.

The trio could all have put the tie to bed in the early exchanges as Nemanja Matic, the outstanding individual on Thursday night, produced the archetypal performance in front of the back four which served to emphasise Chelsea's scatter-gun youth policy.

Newcastle's primary concern heading into the meeting with Paulo di Canio's Black Cats is that despite adopting a restrictive approach in the hope of launching a united front after the break against Benfica, instead used plenty of energy in chasing shadows during the first 45 minutes.

While that didn't affect their attempts to attack in the second half, too overzealously as Benfica broke on the counter and sealed their passage to the last four through Silvio, it may come back to haunt them on Sunday.

In an era where Europe's second tier competition is often derided by its' own competitors, undermined by allowing Champions League teams a route into the last 32 and mocked for the lengthy and agonizing format, Pardew should be heralded for the way he has treated the competition.

A trophy drought stretching back since 1969 might force his hand, but Pardew has never wavered from his ambition of reaching the competition's sharp end, perhaps because Newcastle's ego, deflated by five years without European football and relegation from the Premier League, means they're a small fish in a big pond. In short, they appreciate they don't have the divine right to achieve anything.

Admirable Pardew's philosophy has been, but foolhardy it could prove to be. If coupling a Europa League run with a jaunt at the league title for Champions League qualification makes sacrificing the former justifiable, then a kamikaze approach to an extra-curricular competition at the expense of ensuring domestic survival should be regarded as absolutely necessary.

Amid a run of two wins in 18, Pardew admitted the European campaign had disrupted his side's league form as they slipped towards the relegation zone, where they currently lie five point above. For all his best intentions, you wonder how Thursday's night exertions might impact also.