This is one of the most interesting fixtures in UEFA European League.
The match will not be played in Makhachkala, but at Olimpiyskiy stadion Luzhniki in Moscow. Anzhi is a young club, almost a century younger than Newcastle (to be more correct, 99 years, as Anzhi have been formed in 1991), but Anzhi is known as a club that spend enormous amount of money to bring quality players. It is not a coincidence they reached the second knock-out stage in this competition after eliminated German side Hannover in the previous round.
Anzhi coach Guus Hiddink will go into this match with a full squad of players to choose from. The key players like Samuel Eto’o, Willian and Lassana Diarra are all available. Anzhi is in good form in the domestic league too. They have have only lost twice in Russian Championship, from Rubin Kazan and CSKA Moscow. Both defeats came away from home.
Newcastle have a hard season in the Premier League. They are very close to the relegation zone, just three places above. It is clear there is no space for any relaxation. The Magpies are currently on the 15th place with 30 points. I believe UEFA Europe League is not a priority for the manager Pardew. That of course, do not mean Pardew will give up the match, but I am sure he will not push too much.
By the way, Pardew has a big headache connect with the goalkeeper’s position. The first-choice keeper Tim Krul is out with an ankle injury. His replacement Steve Harper is also sidelined with a knee injury. That means Rob Elliot will start between the posts, while the youngster Jak Alnwick (19 years old) will be on the bench. In addition, Pardew has two injured players – Fabricio Coloccini and Ryan Taylor will miss the game.
I think Anzhi is closer to the victory on this match. First of all, they have the home advantage. It is an important factor, specially knowing the weather conditions in Russia during the Winter period. Not to mention that Anzhi have won all 7 home games in UEFA Europa League this season, scoring 12 times and conceding only once. Plus, this is gonna be the first time that Newcastle have faced Russian opposition in some European competition.
But that is not the only reason for my pick. A already wrote above, I think UEFA Europe League is not a priority for Pardew. It is possible the Newcastle boss to rest some of his regulars from this match. Having on mind Pardew’s problem at goalkeeper position, I believe Anzhi is closer to the victory.