Thursday 14 March 2013
Three Barclays Premier League sides are hopeful of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League this evening with Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Chelsea in action in their second-leg ties.
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew insists his side can overcome Anji Makhachkala to reach the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals this evening, even if they must make do without Hatem Ben Arfa, for their round of 16 second leg.
"We're trying to finalise exactly Ben Arfa's hamstring injury before we put him back into the fore again"
Ben Arfa made his first appearance since December in last week's 0-0 draw at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, but missed Sunday's Barclays Premier League win over Stoke City and Pardew has confirmed he will also be sidelined for the visit of the Russian Premier League side.
“We're trying to finalise exactly his hamstring injury before we put him back into the fore again,” Pardew told the club’s website. “He had a little setback so we're just getting our specialist to look at it."
“He had a slight little strain in there and we're just checking that strain is no more than that. I think that will be the diagonsis and therefore there is a chance he could be involved as early as Wigan.”
Pardew otherwise has a full-strength squad to choose from – with the exception of long-term absentees Ryan Taylor and Haris Vuckic, and the ineligible Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy.
Rafael Benitez believes that his side’s 2-2 draw against Manchester United in last Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final will serve as a confidence booster as Chelsea seek to reverse a first-leg deficit against Steaua Bucharest.
"It is important for us to have shown against a top side that we can do it"
Chelsea rallied from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Old Trafford and Benitez feels the spirit shown against the Barclays Premier League leaders will serve them well as they strive to reverse a one-goal deficit at Stamford Bridge tonight.
"It is important for us to have shown against a top side that we can do it,” said the Chelsea interim manager. “Doing it at Old Trafford shows it and we can hopefully keep the momentum going."
Fernando Torres will come into the starting XI this evening as Demba Ba is cup-tied, but Chelsea have no new injury concerns. The chief consideration for Benitez is how to shuffle his pack ahead of a busy forthcoming schedule of matches.
"It depends on those players that recover quickly and are fit,” said the Spaniard. “Others are older and need more time. You have to analyse everything and decide, and still you get criticised. If you lose it's, 'You pick the wrong player.' It's quite difficult."
Spurs head coach Andre Villas-Boas says there is “no chance” of him fielding a weakened side even if Tottenham Hotspur take the cushion of a three-goal lead to San Siro tonight.
"We will play a strong team to make sure we go through in this competition"
Goals by Gareth Bale, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen sealed a 3-0 victory at White Hart Lane last week, but despite Spurs suffering a Barclays Premier League defeat at Liverpool last weekend, Villas-Boas says he has no intention of resting key players ahead of Sunday’s home match with Fulham.
"There is no score-line that could make us change six or seven players so we will play a strong team to make sure we go through in this competition. We take this game very seriously."
Tottenham have been boosted by the return from respective knee and hamstring injuries of Emmanuel Adebayor and Aaron Lennon, but Gareth Bale is out through suspension.
"We've been in situations where he is not with us and we got results," said Villas-Boas, whose side have not conceded in their last four games against Italian sides. "Gareth can make a difference in any game, we know. We will miss him but we won't want to prove anything without him because we believe a lot in ourselves and also we believe in Gareth.
"It's not a case of proving anything. We just want to do our job to get through."
Inter Milan v Tottenham Hotspur (0-3), 6pm
Chelsea v Steaua Bucharest (0-1), 8.05pm
Newcastle United v Anji Makhachkala (0-0), 8.05pm