• Europa League

Krul returns for Benfica clash

ESPN staff
April 4, 2013
Tim Krul has been missing for the past seven matches through injury © Getty Images

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Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul can expect a fire of baptism when he returns to the starting line-up for the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final showdown with Benfica.

Krul has been out of action since suffering an ankle injury against Metalist Kharkiv in February, but has been rushed back by manager Alan Pardew after being declared fit.

However, the 25-year-old shot-stopper can expect lingering doubts about his fitness being put to the test by the free-scoring Benfica.

The Portuguese Liga leaders have scored over 100 goals in all competitions this season and are coming into the contest having netted 18 times in their last four fixtures.

But Pardew expects his 'keeper to pass any challenge thrown - or kicked - his way and rise to the occasion.

"He has trained very well and I personally think he is one of the top goalkeepers in the world," Pardew said. "This is a great opportunity for him to come back as the No. 1 ahead of Sunday [against Fulham].

"I don't mind putting that pressure on him - he accepts at this level that if he wants to play in the Dutch national side, that is the pressure he is under. I have no doubt he will respond to that."

However, the joy of having Krul reinstated to the starting line-up has been tempered by the benching of his stand-in, Rob Elliot.

Elliot has deputised for Krul for the past seven matches, and in the Dutchman's eyes, has performed an outstanding job.

"He has done great, and the thing is, the competition is great for this club," Krul said. "It also pushes me to my best. I like to have somebody training with me who is of his quality. So it is good for me and good for the club."

But inter-club rivalry needs to be put aside for the trip to Portugal, with Krul expecting a tough match for the Tyneside club.

"They have great players," Krul said. "We have analysed a video, so we have seen the quality of the players and I am really impressed with that quality. Their attacking qualities are really good. We need to be solid. Hopefully we can keep a clean sheet, that would be fantastic."

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