Metalist: Second guessing Pardew

Posted by Marc Duffy

Gabriel Obertan and Vurnon Anita Newcastle trainingPA PhotosGabriel Obertan and Vurnon Anita both have a good chance of starting for Newcastle against Metalist Kharkiv

Thousands of women on Tyneside will be shunned this Valentine's Day as Ukraine's romantically named Metalist Kharkiv head to Newcastle for the Europa League first knockout stage.

Newcastle United internet forums and Twitter have been awash with speculation regarding the side that Alan Pardew is likely to pick for the game and second guessing him is not easy. In fact Pardew has used no fewer than 30 players in the tournament up until this point and that number could grow to 33 if January transfer window arrivals Massadio Haidara, Moussa Sissoko and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa feature - I'm sure at least two of them will. Yoan Gouffran is not eligible having played for Bordeaux in the competition this season.

How seriously will Pardew take this game? Two wins from the past three Premier League games has eased some pressure, but the loss at Tottenham on Saturday coupled with the fact that fellow strugglers Southampton are next up in the league might mean that a few key first-teamers sit this one out. Personally, though, I'd love to see Newcastle have a real crack at this competition.

Metalist are still on their winter break so have not played a competitive game since their last Europa outing on December 6th - this has to be an advantage for the Magpies. The Ukrainian side - who sold their best player, Taison, to Shakhtar Donetsk for £12 million in January - arrived in Newcastle early for some training and a game against local side Whitley Bay last Sunday, a match which ended in a 1-1 draw. They will be backed by 500+ fans after the Metalist club owner paid for their travel to England!

Based on previous line-ups, the forthcoming Southampton fixture and instinct, this is the team that I think will start the game (not the team I would choose!):

Rob Elliot - he's been great when called on so far

Danny Simpson - assuming he's fit. He's lost his Premier League spot to Debuchy but Debuchy is not registered

Massadio Haidara - Santon has been overused this season so the French youngster could make his debut

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa - results have meant that Mbiwa has had to watch from the sidelines so far, with only a couple of late substitute appearances made. He will start this one.

Mike Williamson - wont be regaining his PL place anytime soon so we will probably only see him in Europe

Vurnon Anita - unfortunate to lose his starting place when the new boys came in, he will play

Gael Bigirimana - Pardew suggested we would see less of Bigi between now and the end of the season but he's the club's leading Europa appearance maker

James Perch - retained his spot ahead of Tiote in the defeat at Spurs but might well find himself sidelined for the Ivorian at the weekend

Sylvain Marveaux - another who has been unlucky not to gain more domestic playing time recently though he has been injured. Should start

Gabriel Obertan - he's been one of the club's best players in this season's Europa

Shola Ameobi - will probably lead the line and captain the team

Now if I get 11 out of 11 I deserve a prize! I don't think Moussa Sissoko will play - he looked jaded at Tottenham after an intense few weeks.

Once again this is the team I think will start, not want to start! Who do you think will be in there?

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy

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