Newcastle begin the latest part of their European adventure later and they stand an outside chance of lifting the Europa League title.
Newcastle United have had an odd season which has seen them struggling in the Premier League and scrapping their way through to the last 16 of the Europa League, which is a tournament they shouldn’t have any fear over trying to win.
The extra signings that the club made last month have given the entire squad a lift and it’s now up to Alan Pardew to use those signings in the right way.
That means finding the right balance between rotating the squad to try and keep everyone fresh and going into key European ties, like the one against Anzhi today, all guns blazing.
The manager is arguably the most important person if Newcastle are going to pull off an unlikely Europa League win against some very experienced European teams.
Pardew has to get the balance right between the way he uses his tactics to get the best out of the players and the way he uses his own brutish personality to expect the best from his stars. He needs to make the right calls at the right times.
The fans play a crucial role in Newcastle possibly winning this competition, especially when Newcastle play at home.
Newcastle have arguably the most passionate and loudest supporters of any club in England. They need to make Celtic Park look mediocre for the upcoming home matches in this tournament.
The ability that has on opposition sides is it intimidates them, which Newcastle need because there is a gap on quality between themselves and some other European teams.
Newcastle need every single one of their key players to play as best as they possibly can, when they are selected for European games.
There is a lot of pressure on the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse as well as many others. If they play superbly as individuals, as well as collectively, then Newcastle have enough match winners in their team to beat any side over two legs.
Finally, they are going to need a little bit of luck because of that gap in quality. Key decisions will have to go their way and they will need to pile on the pressure as much as possible to make that happen.
They need referees who are strong against other teams that use gamesmanship as a big part of their tactics and they need the run of the ball. If they get both of those things, they’re a fraction of the way there.
Can Newcastle pull it off?
image: © mikebrown59