By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Managing Editor
Newcastle United take on Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday night at the Estadio da Luz (8.05pm kick-off).
The Portuguese giants top their domestic league and faced the likes of Barcelona and Celtic in the group stage of the Champions League, before dropping into this competition.
United, on the other hand, eased through their Europa League group and have since seen off Metalist Kharkiv and Anzhi Makhachkala to reach the last eight.
Thursday's game is United's 133rd in Europe (109th in UEFA Competitions) with Benfica being the 179th different side United have met competitively. They are also United's 63rd different opponents in European football and the fifth Portuguese side to have played The Magpies
NEWCASTLE UNITED'S RECORD IN EUROPE
P132 W74 D28 L30 F219 A125
(Last six games - all competitions)
Benfica - WWWWLW
Newcastle United - LLWWDL
Benfica (v Rio Ave, Primeira Liga): Artur Moraes; Lorenzo Melgarejo, Luisao, Ezequiel Garay, Maxi Pereira; Nicolas Gaitan (Oscar Cardozo 75), Nemanja Matic, Enzo Perez, Eduardo Salvio (Ola John 46); Rodrigo, Lima (Pablo Aimar 83)
Not used: Paulo Lopes, Jardel, Andre Almeida, Carlos Martins
Newcastle United (v Manchester City, Premier League): Rob Elliot; Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Jonas Gutierrez; Vurnon Anita, Yohan Cabaye (Gael Bigirimana 74); Yoan Gouffran (Dan Gosling 63), Moussa Sissoko, Gabriel Obertan (James Perch 46); Papiss Cisse
Not used: Steve Harper, Curtis Good, Sylvain Marveaux, Adam Campbell
Benfica - Coach Jorge Jesus has very few injury concerns with his squad. The only likely absentee is Argentine forward Eduardo Salvio, who was forced off at half-time of their weekend victory over Rio Ave with a knee complaint.
Newcastle United - The Magpies are boosted by the return of first-choice goalkeeper Tim Krul, who has missed the last seven games with an ankle injury, and Davide Santon, who was sidelined last weekend. However, Cheick Tiote (hamstring), Massadio Haidara (knee), Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring), Fabricio Coloccini (back), Haris Vuckic (knee) and Ryan Taylor (knee) are all sidelined. French pair Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran are ineligible for the competition.
A WORD FROM BOTH CAMPS
Jorge Jesus, Benfica coach: "It will be a hard game. At this stage all the teams are strong and league performance doesn't always correspond with European form. The fact they are in 15th place in England doesn't mean a thing. They have played 12 matches in the Europa League and lost just once. Their squad is full of internationals. It will be an even tie that won't be decided in the first game."
Alan Pardew, Newcastle United manager: "We've got to put in a performance where we can take something back to St. James' Park to give us a chance, because it's going to be very difficult to beat Benfica - full stop, in both ties - but we certainly need to give ourselves a chance. Possession is going to be very important. Both teams are good in possession and therefore it's going to be a key element."
Antony Gautier (France) - 2012/13 record: 32 games, 115 yellow cards, 13 red cards
DID YOU KNOW?
This is United's sixth European quarter-final following ties with Setubal (1969), Anderlecht (1970), Monaco (1997), PSV (2004) and Sporting Lisbon (2005) - the previous five resulting in two wins.