Newcastle United host Ukrainian side Metalist Kharkiv in the first leg of the first knock-out round of the UEFA Europa League. The Magpies have two of the last three games coming into this game and will be confident of a good result on Thursday evening, even if they did lose their weekend fixture.
Kharkiv will be equally confident of a strong performance; the Ukrainian Premier League is in the middle of a winter break and the players should be well rested for this trip to Tyneside.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is set for 8.05pm GMT. Live coverage is on ESPN and ESPN HD.
Newcastle have not lost at home, in European competitions, for eight years now and will need to extend that run to realise Alan Pardew's dream of winning this trophy. Alan Pardew qualified second from Group D, seeing off competition from Portuguese club Maritimo and Belgians Club Brugge. French club Bordeaux were comfortable winners though, finishing with 13 points to Newcastle's nine.
The English club's home form in the group stages was impressive enough, with two wins and one draw from the three fixtures. And given those games finished 3-0, 1-0 and 1-1, Pardew will be reasonably confident of not conceding an advantage in this leg, at the very least.
Domestically, Newcastle have been poor all season, with only a handful of points separating them from the relegation zone. However, an influx of players during the January transfer window could help make the Magpies a much stronger force.
Kharkiv have not played a competitive match since the first week of December; the Ukrainian league allows a rather lengthy winter break. A lack of match fitness may have an adverse impact on their performance but the visitors will be inspired by local rivals Shakhtar Donetsk, who held Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund to a 2-2 draw on Wednesday, in a Champions League match.
The team qualified top of Group K, with goal difference dividing them from second place Germans Bayer Leverkusen. Khariv's away form was acceptable in the group stages, with the one defeat in the three games coming in the final round of matches - a dead rubber against Austrians Rapid Wien.
The club is fourth in their domestic league and they trail leaders Donetsk by 15 points. And before the winter break, Kharkiv were on a fine run of form, with six wins in the last eight games. They come to St James' Park with the third best defensive record from the group stage, having conceded only thrice in six games; only Lazio and Leverkusen (two each) have shipped less.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): L W W L D
- Last Match: Tottenham 2 - 1 Newcastle United
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): L W W W W
- Last Match: Rapid Wien 1 - 0 Metalist Kharkiv
Pardew will likely be without January signing Yoan Gouffran (leg), although that could still change. However, Gouffran's compatriot, Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring) is definitely ruled out. Defender Danny Simpson (toe) is also unlikely to be available. Dan Gosling (knee), Haris Vuckic and Ryan Taylor (both knee) are long-term absentees. Newcastle will field a strong side, given they have a full week's rest before the next game - the second leg of this tie.
Probable Line-Up:Krul; Santon, Taylor, Yanga-Mbiwa, Haidara; Tiote, Anita; Marveaux, Sissoko, Obertan; Cisse
Kharkiv drew 1-1 against Norwegian side ODD BK in a club friendly on 30 January, which represents the only time the Ukrainians have played 90 minutes since early December. Fitness may be an issue but there are no injuries, so a full-strength squad is assured.
Probable Line-Up: Goryainov; Villagra, Gueye, Torsiglieri, Fininho; Torres; Marlos, Blanco, Cleiton, Willian; Cristaldo