Thursday night sees Newcastle United’s first European campaign for five years get underway, when they travel to Portugal to take on Maritimo. The journey to the island of Madeira is the longest the Magpies will face, with future trips to France and Belgium sure to take less of a toll on the bodies of the already depleted squad.

Missing for the Geordies in Europe are Senegal strike pair Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba, the latter having reported problems with starting on the bench against Everton on Monday night. The reported problems came from one of Ba’s many hangers-on and should be taken with more than a pinch of salt.

Hatem Ben Arfa serves the final match of a three game ban he picked up while playing for Marseille, while Fabricio Coloccini, Tim Krul, Ryan Taylor, Cheick Tiote and Danny Simpson are all injured. Yohan Cabaye also isn’t on the plane as he is rested ahead of Sunday’s visit of Norwich City.

All the injuries and suspensions mean Alan Pardew will be forced to field a below strength team, with many fringe players being relied upon to get the job done in Portugal. Gabriel Obertan, Romain Amalfitano, Gael Bigirimana and Sammy Ameobi are all hopeful of starts. Sammy’s older brother Shola is the only recognised first team striker available and will lead the line at the Estadio Do Barreiros.

The Portuguese side only just made it through the qualifying stages of the tournament, going through on away goals against Greek side Asteras Tripolis. They finished fifth in the league last season, behind Sporting Lisbon, FC Porto, Benfica and Braga and are largely made up of Brazilian players, with Portugal somewhat of a European breeding ground for the South Americans.

Other knowledge of the squad is very limited and it will be a case of figuring out the challenge on the day for Newcastle. It should be a similar test in terms of difficulty to the games against Atromitos, albeit with a lot more at stake as trips to Bordeaux and Brugge lying ahead.

A win coupled with a draw in the other game would be the perfect start for Alan Pardew and his men, with the squad rotation needing to be spot on if Newcastle are to continue to effectively fight on two fronts this season.

By Chief Writer, Marley Anderson

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  1. Davers

    cant believe we didnt buy centre back and striker could cost us in the end.The season has only started and
    we are resting players.Pardew says he wants to concentrate on league,to be honest we will not challenge the top 4 thats definate. we may as well have full squad in europe and get as far as possible.Players get awesome money should be able to play 2 games aweek.

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