Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has warned his side that they will have to contend with being favourites for their Europa League play-off away at Greek side Atromitos tonight. Newcastle begin their European campaign tonight after an impressive fifth-placed finish in the Premier League last season.
Pardew told the Guardian, “For Atromitos, it’s a big game- we are a big scalp for this team, we are under no illusions about that.” Pardew believes that defeat tonight would not only reflect badly on themselves but also on the Premier League, “We must look upon ourselves as ambassadors for the Premier League. We believe it’s the strongest league in Europe, and we need to replicate that in terms of the performances we put out.”
The Newcastle manager also accepts that the game in Greece is hardly ideal, with a trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea only two days away. As a result, Pardew has decided to leave key players Fabricio Coloccini, Cheik Tiote and Demba Ba at home, “We have brought everybody who is fit. We have got three or four younger players who we would like to have brought but unfortunately they are injured too, so the senior group is all here.” Despite this, Newcastle are still expected to field a relatively unfamiliar outfit tonight.
So what do we know about Greek side Atromitos? They were founded in 1923 and finished fourth in the “Super League Greece” last season. The more ardent football fans will remember a couple of familiar faces in the Atromitos line-up tonight. The man trying to keep Newcastle at bay will be the former Liverpool reserve goalkeeper Charles Itandje. Additionally, at left-back is the former Liverpool, Rangers, Portsmouth, Southampton and Birmingham City Frenchman Gregory Vignal.
Newcastle have been prone to the odd upset in the past, none more famous than a 1972 FA Cup third round replay when non-league Hereford United defeated a first division Newcastle United side 2-1. However, Newcastle have also been the instigators of a crushing victory, including a 13-0 victory over Newport County in 1946 and an 8-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday in 1999.
Under Pardew, Newcastle are a good side. If they display the consistent levels of performance they have displayed since the beginning of last season they will progress to the group stages of the Europa League comfortably.