James Perch

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

James Perch knows that players may have to be rested for Newcastle's first European game in more than five years - but he hopes not to be one of them.

The Magpies travelled to Athens on Wednesday morning ahead of Thursday night's Europa League fourth qualifying round first leg against Astromitos, and face a tough away game at Chelsea on Saturday evening.

As a result, Alan Pardew is expected to mix and match his squad in an attempt to give United the best possible chance of achieving good results in both matches and that could see the likes of Gael Bigirimana, Romain Amalfitano and Vurnon Anita come into contention in the Greek capital.

But Perch, who started in Saturday's 2-1 win over Spurs, has insisted that he would relish the opportunity to play in Europe for the first time in his career at the Peristeri Stadium as Newcastle bid to qualify for the group stages of the competition.

"It's a massive game," the 26-year-old told nufc.co.uk. "The fact that we've got Chelsea less than 48 hours later is a bit tough on us, a bit tough on the players, so whether we have to rest a couple of players I'm not too sure.

"But I am sure that I'd like to go there and play."

Perch never came close to playing in Europe during six years at Nottingham Forest but now, following his switch to Tyneside in July 2010, it could now become a reality for the Mansfield-born utility man.

And he admitted: "I can't wait. It's massive and I'd like to play because I'd like to put that as one of the things that I've done and achieved.

"It would be a massive achievement for me, like it would for most of the other players in the dressing room, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm really excited."