Tim Krul

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Birthday boy Tim Krul is set for a late present on Thursday as he prepares to make his Newcastle United return at the Estadio da Luz.

The goalkeeper, who turned 25 on Wednesday, has been sidelined since suffering an ankle injury in the closing stages of the round of 32 win against Metalist Kharkiv in February.

He made a string of saves in the Ukraine as the Magpies won 1-0 but his replacement, Rob Elliot, has more than stepped up to the plate over the last few weeks.

Krul, however, is set to return against Benfica in the quarter-final first leg match in Lisbon and he knows that he could have a crucial role to play against the Portuguese league leaders.

"They've got great players," the Den Haag-born shot-stopper said. "We've had a video analysis this afternoon so we've seen the quality of the players and I'm really impressed with the quality.

"Their attacking qualities are really good so we need to be a solid team tomorrow. Hopefully we can keep a clean sheet - that would be fantastic.

"I know the left-winger, Ola John, from the national team - he's a great player - and as we've seen this afternoon, they've got a few more good players."

In light of Elliot's solid displays, Alan Pardew faced a tough call when deciding who would start in goal against Benfica.

But, at the pre-match press conference held at the magnificent stadium, the Newcastle manager hinted that Krul would get the nod.

"I think it would be terrible of me to say on his birthday that he's definitely not playing," Pardew smiled.

"He's sitting up here so I think it's a good indication that Tim will play tomorrow.

"He's trained very, very well. I personally think he's one of the top goalkeepers in the world and therefore this is a great opportunity for him to come back as the number one for Sunday.

"I don't mind putting that pressure on him tomorrow. He accepts at this level that if he wants to play in the Dutch national side, that's the pressure he's under and I have no doubt that he'll respond to that."

If Krul does come in, however, he knows he will need to perform well to keep former Charlton man Elliot out of the side.

"Very much so," he said. "He's done great but I think it's competition that's great for this Club and it pushes me to my best.

"I'm lucky to have somebody training with me of this quality so it's good for me and it's good for the Club."

Click here to buy a Newcastle United shirt with Krul's name and number on the back