Newcastle United host Greek side Atromitos in the second leg of their Europa League qualifier after having salvaged a 1-1 draw, away from home, in the first match. Alan Pardew admitted to being pleased with the result, particularly since he did not send out his strongest possible team for that game. The Magpies were scheduled to play European champions Chelsea in a league game 48 hours after the trip back from Greece.
Will Pardew take a similar decision for this game too? He might but given the Toon will face an Aston Villa side who have lost both games so far and are rock bottom, he is more likely to jump at the opportunity to seal progress into the financially lucrative Europa League. However, he did also admit he was concerned about his Greek opponents and particularly their coach, Dusan Bajevic, who has almost 30 years of managerial experience behind him.
"Last week we got what I thought was a positive result. They have got a couple of very good players, ones who can travel with the ball and that is always difficult for teams. The manager has got vast experience and that worries me a little bit," Pardew said to the club's official Web site, but added, "The club wants to win on Thursday and we will put out a side which we think can win the game."
Meanwhile, the Greeks, as will any underdog, arrive with absolutely no pressure on them, particularly since they have conceded an away goal. Should Newcastle canter to a comfortable win, it probably will not be a surprise. However, this is now, effectively, a one-off match and in such situations anything can happen. Should Bajevic's side pick up an early goal, the hosts will be under immense pressure to reply and the strain could leave them vulnerable to a counterattack. But perhaps the best way to describe their approach to this game would be their manager's words: "This is still alive. We won't go to Newcastle with our hands up."
Team News and Formation
Pardew is still unable to call on midfielder Cheick Tiote, who was so influential in the middle of the park last season. The Ivorian is out with a damaged calf muscle. In addition, Shola and Sammy Ameobi have also been ruled out.
Bajevic, meanwhile, has no major injury concerns and are likely to field the same 11 that brought them a comfortable 2-0 win over Kerkya on the opening day of the Greek Super League. Forward Denis Epstein is likely to be key to Atromitos' qualification hopes.
Newcastle (4-3-3): Harper; Williamson, Perch, Taylor, Tavernier; Anita, Amalfitano, Bigirimana; Gutierrez, Obertan, Cisse
Atromitos (4-3-3): Itandje; Skondras, Giannoulis, Fytanidis, Lazaridis; Brito, Iglesias, Dimoutsos; Epstein, Kuqi, Beljic
Where to Watch Live:
You can watch the match live from the Sports Direct Arena on iTV4, from 7.30 pm BST onwards.