With their domestic form on the rise, Newcastle United return to European action tomorrow night (Thursday) when they take on Russian giants Anzhi Makachkala in the last 16 of the Europa League.

The oil-rich Eastern Europeans are managed by former Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink and are one of the favourites to win the Europa League this year. They’ve already beaten Liverpool in the group stages of this year’s competition, before Brendan Rodgers’ side were finished off by fellow Russians Zenit in the last round.

Newcastle certainly face a tough task if they are to overcome Anzhi but the deciding leg is at St James’ Park, meaning a draw in Russia could be a desirable result for Alan Pardew’s men.

The conditions in Russia will be a test for the Newcastle squad, with weather currently at -10 degrees. Even a strong breeze across the Tyne is not comparable to those kinds of chills.

The big news for Newcastle is that Papiss Cisse has not travelled with the side to Russia. The striker has an unspecified illness and will be replaced in the starting line-up by Shola Ameobi.

Hatem Ben Arfa has travelled with the Magpies squad and hopes to be involved as he continues his injury comeback, while Pardew prepares to start his strongest team.

Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran will miss out having already played in Europe for Bordeaux and Lille respectively this year, but there are no such concerns over Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa or Moussa Sissoko.

Danny Simpson could replace Debuchy at right-back, while there could be a start for Sylvain Marveaux in place of Gouffran. Any participation from Ben Arfa is expected to be from the bench.

Rob Elliot will continue in goal in the absence of Tim Krul, while Steven Taylor will likely partner Yanga-Mbiwa in front of him. The rest of the team is expected to be similar to the one of recent weeks on a domestic front.

For the visitors, their bottomless pit of money has allowed them to acquire whoever they choose and as you expect, their squad is brimming with quality.

The most recognisable name is Samuel Eto’o, who remains the world’s most well-paid footballer, earning over 20 million Euros per year. That’s a weekly salary of 300,000 Euros.

Former Chelsea man Yuri Zhirkov also plies his trade for Anzhi, while 6”8’ striker Lacina Traore is both prolific and in high demand, having been linked with big European clubs in recent transfer windows.

One of the lesser known players is arguably Anzhi’s most dangerous. Mbark Boussoufa signed from Anderlecht for just under 8m Euros and makes his side tick from his attacking midfield role. Former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Willian needs to be watched carefully, too.

Due to safety concerns, the game will be played at the Luzhniki Stadium – the ground where the Champions League final was staged in 2008. The venue was used in the last round when Anzhi beat German side Hannover, however only 12,000 fans turned up at the 78,000 capacity arena.

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  1. Firebug666

    I think that on our day; we are very capable of beating anyone. If we can get an away goal i think we will win the tie at home. It will be down to the strength of the team we put out there, and how much fighting spirit we show. We will need to start this game well, and try to control the midfield from the whistle. I believe we have a good technical aspect to our game, and if we use this to control the tempo we should have a good chance.

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