Newcastle v Benfica: Key battles

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa will have to shackle Benfica hotshot Oscar Cardozo at St James' Park. Photo: PA

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew will send his troops into Europa League quarter-final battle with Benfica tomorrow night knowing they will have to do what no other team has managed in 31 games.

Trailing 3-1 from last week's first leg, the Magpies need to win by at least two goals to go through, and the Portuguese league leaders have not lost in any competition since going down 2-1 to Champions league opponents Spartak Moscow in Russia on October 23.

Here we look at the key battles Pardew's men will have to win if they are to reach the semi-finals.


Yanga-Mbiwa is still learning his trade in English football following his January switch from Montpellier, but his ability to keep a tight rein on striker Cardozo could prove pivotal to their chances of success. The Paraguayan scored Benfica's final goal in Lisbon with a twice-taken penalty but was a threat throughout, and will need to be shackled if the Magpies are to build a platform from which to win the tie.


Sissoko's energy and drive from an advanced midfield position were a feature of his first few weeks on Tyneside and the support he is able to provide to striker Papiss Cisse could make the difference. The Frenchman is without a goal in his last eight games and could hardly choose a better time to end his personal drought. Former Chelsea midfielder Matic could find himself regularly confronted by the Newcastle powerhouse and the degree to which he can prevent him having an impact could be vital.


With four goals in his last six games, Cisse has started his season's tally ticking over once again, although his injury-time winner against Fulham at the weekend came after a series of other chances had gone begging. On his day, he is an instinctive finisher from either close range or distance. Brazilian Luisao will have to deal better with the Senegal international than he did in Lisbon, where Cisse put the visitors ahead and then twice hit the post.