Newcastle United will feel cheated not to be taking a two-goal Europa League lead over Metalist Kharkiv to Ukraine, but the Magpies will still fancy their chances of qualifying for the last 16.
Alan Pardew’s side are a pretty big-looking 9/5 to win in 90 minutes and a 5/4 chance to progress by any means required, but judging by last week’s first meeting – which finished goalless on Tyneside – the former price must be worth a flutter.
The Ukrainian side rarely threatened Tim Krul’s goal at St James’ Park and given the fact that they have only played one competitive fixture since December (the match against Newcastle), it is hard for me to see how they are 91/100 favourites to win the return clash inside the distance.
However, I am not going to complain as I am certainly going to be lumping on the Toon Army, despite their struggles this season.
Pardew’s men have been extremely unlucky with injuries throughout the season so far, but being given the resources to strengthen in the January transfer window has revitalised their campaign.
Since bringing in the French contingent of Mathieu Debuchy, Moussa Sissoko, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Yoan Gouffran, Newcastle have recorded priceless victories over Aston Villa and Chelsea.
Losing Demba Ba to Chelsea on the cheap was obviously a huge blow and with last season’s hero Papiss Cisse failing to hit the heights again, the Toon have been struggling for goals. However, Cisse will certainly have a score to settle in Ukraine.
The Senegalese striker had two goals dubiously – actually, scrap that – WRONGLY disallowed and instead of travelling to the hostile Metalist Oblast Sports Complex with a comfortable 2-0 advantage, the tie is poised nicely and evenly, albeit unfairly so.
I am sure there will be many punters who will expect another tight affair with few goals being scored and the draw is available at odds of 12/5.
Of course, a score draw would see Newcastle qualify on the away goals rule and it is pretty hard to envisage them not scoring in 180 minutes of football against Metalist.
So if you fancy the draw, I suggest backing 1-1 (21/4) and 2-2 (15/1) to give yourself the chance of winning extra cash, rather than simply plumping for the draw.
I also predict that Cisse will be champing at the bit to make amends for last week and the lanky striker can be backed at a tasty looking 6/1 to bag the first goal or 17/10 to notch at any time.
He will almost certainly lead the line by himself this evening and therefore looks the most likely Newcastle player to break the deadlock.
I am not for one minute predicting it will be an easy victory for the Geordie boys in the Ukraine, but with the array of stars they have and at such a long price, I am happy to put my neck on the line and get stuck into them.