Ryan Taylor celebrates his goal against Atromitos

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

It was Ryan Taylor who started Newcastle's Europa League campaign in earnest with their first goal of the continental campaign and the Merseysider is keeping his fingers crossed that United are still in the competition when he returns from injury.

His free-kick in the fourth qualifying round first leg against Atromitos cancelled out Denis Epstein's opener for the Greek side and ultimately proved crucial to the Magpies' progression to the group stages, as Haris Vuckic got the only goal of the second leg.

In that game at St. James' Park, Taylor suffered a knee injury which has sidelined him for almost seven months but he's nearing a return and recently revealed his hopes of being fit for next month's derby against Sunderland.

But that's not his only target - he has also set his sights on being part of his club's European adventure once again if they can see off Anzhi Makhachkala on Thursday night.

Alan Pardew's men picked up a useful 0-0 draw in Russia last week and would go through to the quarter-finals with a victory.

And Taylor told nufc.co.uk: "It's a good journey and I'm sure the lads are enjoying it, and with the knockout stages you've got to field a good team if you want to progress.

"As we sit here now, we're looking at a team sheet (from the Metalist Kharkiv away leg) and there's eight or nine players who play week in, week out there.

"It does seem a long time ago when that first free-kick went in right on the stroke of half-time to get the ball rolling for the European campaign but I watched all the group games, home and away.

"I couldn't watch the Metalist game because I was away and they didn't have it, but obviously I kept tabs on it and by all accounts it should have been over after the first tie. Anzhi is another tough test but the lads picked up a good result in Moscow.

"Hopefully I can be the one who started it all and I'd love to play some part in it towards the end - who knows, maybe in the final. It's the only trophy we've got to play for this season so I don't see why we can't have a go."

Click here to buy tickets for Thursday's game against Anzhi Makhachkala