By Marley Anderson

Tonight sees Newcastle attempt to make something of their season as they take on Benfica in the quarter-final of the Europa League. Kick-off is at 8.05pm and the Geordies will be hoping they can give themselves a chance heading into the second leg, just as they did when they frustrated Anzhi in a goalless draw in the last 16.

When the draw was made, Alan Pardew could have been forgiven for making European success his priority for the remainder of the season. However, league results have been unkind to the Magpies and they now find themselves once again having to balance their calendars equally between Premier League and Europa League.

Having said that, it is expected that the Toon boss will select his strongest side for the game against Benfica and Tim Krul will return in goal ahead of Rob Elliot. Pardew has confirmed the Dutchman’s selection, saying that it would be harsh to leave out the keeper just two days after his 25th birthday.

Ryan Taylor has travelled with the squad to Portugal but won’t be involved as he recovers from injury, while Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy are both ineligible.

Fabricio Coloccini and Hatem Ben Arfa have remained on Tyneside to continue their injury recovery, while suggestions that Massadio Haidara could feature have been dispelled.

The visitors are in superb form domestically, having not lost a single game in the league this season. They currently top the Portuguese table and thrashed sixth-placed Rio Ave 6-1 at the weekend, with Brazilian striker Lima netting a hat-trick.

Their star names include sought-after winger Nicolas Gaitan and Spanish striker Rodrigo, while Paraguayan forward Oscar Cardozo was once a Newcastle transfer target while Sam Allardyce was in charge.

There are some positives for Newcastle though, as Benfica have never beaten English opposition at this stage of a European competition. A slightly more worrying statistic is that the Super Eagles have won every game in this year’s Europa League, since dropping out of their Champions’ League group which included Barcelona and Celtic.

They eliminated Bordeaux – one of Newcastle’s group stage opponents – in the last round, after seeing off Bayer Leverkusen in the round of 32.