- Europa League
Anzhi the unknown for Newcastle
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew is confident his side can win the Europa League as they prepare to face Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala for a place in the quarter-finals on Thursday.
Newcastle travel to Russia for the first leg under a cloud of uncertainty, with the club missing a host of players, facing an expensively assembled squad and the unknown particulars of playing on an artificial surface.
But that has not stopped Pardew from instilling a belief in his squad that they can lift the Europa trophy come May in Amsterdam.
"Do I think we have got a chance in the competition? When you get to this stage, all the clubs have a chance," he said. "You need some luck, but you need a good technical game and you need to have the right mentality in the group. I think our mentality is strong.
"This tie is going to be close and I think the result here will have a huge reflection on St James' Park because that is an advantage for us, that the second leg is there, for sure.''
However, Pardew faces a massive selection dilemma for the away fixture against Anzhi with the manager unable to call on the services of at least six first-team players.
Injury concerns have ruled out Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez, while Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran are ineligible.
Striker Papiss Cisse did not make the trip after being struck down by a virus.
"Papiss has been sick since Sunday, so myself and the doctor went to see him this morning to see whether we felt he could travel, with me definitely thinking he could,'' Pardew said
"But he didn't look well, to be honest, so we have had to leave him behind, unfortunately.
"That's one of the reasons I brought Shola [Ameobi], because I didn't have any intention of bringing Shola."
But the biggest concern could be the unpredictable artificial pitch being used for the first leg.
"It's a surface that he's been advised in the past not really to play on, so it leaves me a little bit short of striking options,'' he said.
"We have practised with the squad for three days on the surface and we will have a little experience of it tonight, so we have prepared ourselves.
"And we have got good technical players - you have to be very, very highly technical on an astroturf pitch, and we have technical players, and I will side with those tomorrow in this team.''