Silverware opportunity or inconvenience for Newcastle United?

Newcastle United begin their League Cup run at Old Trafford tomorrow night. Is it a competition they should take seriously?

It may be infrequent it happens, but a win at Old Trafford is there for the taking tomorrow night for Newcastle if they want it. Or perhaps there was until news of Wayne Rooney's possible inclusion surfaced.

Manchester United are expected to field an under-strength team in the League Cup, and if Newcastle take the bold step in naming a first choice XI, then they will have a strong chance of progressing.

It won't be as simple as that sounds, but the prospects of Ben Arfa, Ba, Cisse, and Tiote bringing their A game to Old Trafford would see Newcastle give the home side a really tough game.

The League Cup is a legitimate piece of silverware worth targeting, and winning it in late February guaranteed Liverpool a European spot for this season without having to scrap it out in the league until May, even if it could be argued that complacency ruined their end of season run.

Nevertheless the burden for Liverpool of erasing the fact they had gone six years without a trophy, and the opportunity for Newcastle to win their first domestic cup trophy since the 1955 FA Cup should not be readily written off.

Newcastle have a team good enough to win the competition, so it is just a case of whether they use it or not. However that choice is not as black and white as it may seem.

Newcastle's squad is already stretched, with the Premier League and the Europa League, and when they drew 0-0 with Portuguese side Maritimo last week the club left out Ba, Cisse, Ben Arfa and Krul, playing Ameobi, Amalfitano and Bigirimana instead.

The other factor Newcastle must consider is that those players and their fellow second string cohorts need as much game time as possible, and an outing at Old Trafford will provide invaluable experience for them.

That experience could stand them in good stead for both the Europa League and the Premier League when called upon, even if also fielding an under-strength team, combined with the fact they are playing away from home makes them more likely to be knocked out of the cup at the first hurdle.

The ominous prospect for Manchester United, is Alan Pardew's confirmation that midfield force of nature Cheik Tiote is likely to start, along with Fabricio Coloccini, as they 'needs more game time' as he recovers from injury. But who should play alongside them?

What should Pardew do? Does the competition matter? Do the first team stars need a further rest? And would an extra one, maximum two games per month, between now and February place such a burden on the club's schedule that the chance of silverware is worth discarding?

More importantly, can Newcastle's second string get the job done against the home side's? It will be an interesting contest, and if Newcastle were to progress, their path to the final would be significantly clearer for knocking out the Premier League runners-up.

image: © blenky64

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