Alan Pardew

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Alan Pardew believes his Newcastle United side go into Thursday's Europa League round of 16 tie against Anzhi Makhachkala as the underdogs - but believes both teams have "big players" capable of deciding the tie over two legs.

The Russian side boast star names like Samuel Eto'o and Yuri Zhirkov and have been installed as one of the bookmakers' favourites to win the competition.

And, having watched them on several occasions in the build up to the match on the artificial pitch at the Luzhniki Stadium, Pardew believes that tag is justified.

"We've been studying them for three weeks so we have a good knowledge of their style, of their ability," he said.

"Individually, I know Zhirkov from his Chelsea days and also Willian is somebody that I know well. In terms of (Lassana) Diarra, who's the main source of their midfield, again he's somebody that we know well.

"So it's not an unfamiliar team to us and the fact that they played twice against Liverpool (in the group stages) gives us insight into them. I think for us, we certainly are the underdogs in this tie.

"The surface and the quality of the opposition is going to make it very difficult for us to get through."

But Pardew believes his side could spring a surprise against the Russians - and could yet shock the whole of Europe.

He said: "Do I think we've got a chance in the competition? I think when you get to this stage, all the clubs have a chance.

"You need some luck, but you need a good techinical game and you need to have the right mentality in the group.

"And I think our mentality is strong. This tie is going to be close and I think the result here will have a huge reflection on St. James' Park because that is an advantage for us, that the second leg is there - for sure.

"It's difficult to predict how the game will unfold. There's goalscorers in both teams and you're going to have two completely different games because the surfaces are going to determine that.

"The compexion of the games, I can't predict but what I do know is that both teams have fantastic technical ability and it will be a tough, tough technical game. The big players in the groups - their group and our group - will ultimately decide it."