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Lee Calls For Spirit Of Barcelona

NUFC Logo Newcastle United FC

Rob Lee captained Newcastle against Barcelona in 1997 and he's calling for a similar performance against Benfica on Thursday

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Rob Lee was the captain for one of the most famous European nights in St. James' Park history and he's backing the current side to provide another one against Benfica on Thursday night.

The former Newcastle midfielder - who scored a hat-trick on his continental debut against Royal Antwerp - was part of the side which beat Barcelona 3-2 courtesty of a Faustino Asprilla hat-trick in September 1997.

With United trailing 3-2 from the first leg at the Estadio da Luz, it will take a similarly monumental performance from the Magpies to overcome their Portuguese opponents.

But they have a vital away goal and, with a full house behind them, Lee believes the tie remains very much alive.

"I think Benfica are beatable, I genuinely do," he told nufc.co.uk. "When the draw was made I thought that as long as we kept away from Spurs and Chelsea, we had a chance.

"I thought that the three English teams would make the semi-finals and I still believe they've all got a chance.

"I still keep a close eye on what Newcastle do and they've done very well. They qualified from their group at a canter, without even trying really, and now it's getting down to the knockout stage.

"When we've got our best team out we're very difficult to beat. I've always said our squad's probably not as big as we'd like but when the full team's out we're a very, very good team and can beat anyone on our day.

"It'd be great for Newcastle to win something at long last."

Recalling that memorable Champions League night against Barcelona, Lee said: "That was a fantastic game. For Newcastle United to be playing on the same pitch as Barcelona then was a feat in itself.

"But to actually beat them - and I know it was 3-2 but we were 3-0 up and beat them comfortably - was something else. We should have done better really, we should have progressed through the group, but it was a great game to have been part of."

Lee's first taste of Europe, though, came three years earlier.

Newcastle had not been in continental competition for 17 years but marked their return with a 5-0 win at Antwerp's Bosuilstadion with Lee scoring with three headers.

The first came inside the first minute and he remembered: "It was, at the age of 27, my first game in Europe.

"In fact it was a lot of the lads' first game in Europe. But we went there, not just trying to get a 0-0 which you see some teams doing now, or a 1-0 win - we went out and played exactly how we played in the Premier League.

"We attacked the team and we beat them 5-0. It was a long time since we'd been in Europe and to go onto that stage and do that is a fantastic memory."