Newcastle United have the chance to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League for the first time since 2004 on Thursday evening, with Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala standing in their way.
The Geordies secured an impressive 0-0 draw in Moscow last week, in process becoming the first foreign side to not lose away to Anzhi in this campaign. The result in Russia has left the tie in the balance as the two sides prepare to meet again at St. James’ Park, although Newcastle just edge ahead as favourites in bwin’s 3-way betting market.
The English side are 31/20 to win the game outright and 6/5 to advance to the next round, whereas Anzhi are only slightly longer odds of 33/20 to win on the night, with the draw at 23/10.
Vital to Newcastle’s chances of progression in mid-week is their stand in captain and France international, Yohann Cabaye. The former Lille midfielder missed two months of the season over Christmas due to injury and it’s no coincidence that his spell on the sidelines coincided with Newcastle going on a terrible run of two wins from 13 games.
Since returning to the first team, Cabaye has helped his side to three consecutive home league wins that have seen them pull away from relegation zone and the Frenchman has scored four times since mid-January as well, including the equaliser against Stoke this past weekend.
Looking away from an individual point of view, Alan Pardew’s Newcastle will be in good spirits and confident of attaining a positive result on Thursday as they have not lost at home in Europe this season and have only conceded on one occasion as well.
Another clean sheet to add to the collection in this fixture could see them through to the next round and they are well priced at 3/1 to win with a clean sheet. If they pulled this off odds on them to win the competition, currently at 16/1, will most certainly fall.
On paper, stopping the likes of Samuel Eto’o and Willian scoring for Anzhi won’t be a simple task, but Guus Hiddink’s side, after drawing a blank against Newcastle in the first leg, lost 2-0 to Mordovia Saransk, a side who are second bottom of the Russian Premier League.
With the Russian side misplacing their shooting boots this past week, odds of 7/20 on them to score on Tyneside seem quite short, whereas 39/20 on them failing to score could be a better bet.
Continuing on that train of thought, Anzhi have had trouble scoring more than once on their travels around Europe, with a 5-0 win away to AZ Alkmaar in August being the only exception to the rule that the Russians can’t score more than once away from home.
So it looks like Anzhi could struggle to find the net at St James’ Park, and as such the 13/5 that Newcastle win to nil looks like the bet. Newcastle have kept seven clean sheets in 11 Europa League games this season – four in five home matches – and all four of their European victories this term have been achieved without conceding a goal.