Benfica v Newcastle United: Key battles

Nicolas Gaitan's tussle with Yohan Cabaye could prove decisive. Photo: PA

Benfica host Newcastle at the Estadio da Luz in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final as the two sides meet for the first time in a UEFA competition.

The Portuguese Liga leaders will be full of confidence having surpassed the 100-goal mark in all competitions for the season with a 6-1 win over Rio Ave at the weekend.

While Benfica could not have wished for a better warm-up ahead of this tie, Newcastle suffered a 4-0 thrashing against Manchester City that leaves them precariously close to the Barclays Premier League's relegation zone.

Here we look at some of the key areas that Newcastle will look to exploit as they aim to take the advantage against a Benfica side who have lost their last five quarter-final ties in Europe against English opposition.


The Brazilian centre-back, who served an 11-match ban in all competitions earlier this season for knocking over a referee in a pre-season friendly, will need to call on his experience to deal with the threat of Cisse. Although the Senegalese striker has not quite recaptured the sparkling form he showed during his first six months at Newcastle - he has scored just 10 goals in 38 games in all competitions this season - Cisse has a habit of popping up with crucial goals at the right time. Magpies boss Alan Pardew will hope his number nine can replicate his heroics against Anzhi Makhachkala, when he headed a 94th minute winner to give his team a 1-0 aggregate victory, and grab Newcastle a vital away goal.


The battle between two of the most technically gifted players on the pitch promises to be an intriguing contest. Gaitan started his career as a left-sided midfielder for Boca Juniors, but is deployed in a more advanced position for Benfica, where his dribbling skill, close control and upper-body strength can make an impact. Benfica will have to worry about the creativity of Newcastle midfielder Cabaye, who has excelled in a playmaker role since his move from Lille in June 2011. The Frenchman will be a real threat from set pieces, having scored two free kicks and a penalty since returning from injury in January.


Taylor, who has enjoyed a prolonged spell at the heart of the Newcastle defence over the last two months, will face one of his toughest opponents this season when he comes up against Cardozo. The Paraguayan striker has scored an astonishing 27 goals in 33 appearances in all competitions this season, and will provide a stern test for a backline that has conceded 56 goals in 31 Premier League matches. If Taylor fails to keep Cardozo quiet, Benfica could take an unassailable lead to St James' Park for the second leg next week.