ALAN Pardew is determined that St James’s Park will be all smiles tomorrow – after Newcastle United’s heartbreak at the Estadio da Luz, writes Miles Starforth.
The club lost the first leg of its Europa League quarter-final against Benfica 3-1 in Lisbon on Thursday night.
Pardew admits his players returned to Tyneside yesterday on a downer after the Portuguese side’s comeback.
Back to back away defeats have left Newcastle in trouble domestically, with the club just three points above the Premier League’s relegation zone ahead of Fulham’s visit.
Pardew is anxious that there isn’t a hangover from what could prove his team’s last European jaunt for some time.
“It’s so unfortunate,” Pardew said. “We should be smiling and overjoyed with our performance in Benfica.
“I would have taken 2-1 – it would have been a good European result – but the third goal gives us a bit of down feeling about it all. Hopefully we can put that right (in the return leg).”
United’s players, however, must put Benfica’s visit to the back of their minds.
“We have to show the hunger and desire to our crowd that it means everything to us, because it does,” added Pardew. “Hopefully we can produce the quality.”
There were positives to come from the Benfica game, with Tim Krul, Moussa Sissoko and Papiss Demba Cisse among those who caught the eye at the Estadio da Luz.
All three are expected to start against Fulham.
“Sylvain produced a couple of great runs against Benfica, and Papiss did as well,” said Pardew.
“It’s that type of quality we are going to need. Sissoko cut out some situations, and held the ball up.”
On Cisse, he added: “I thought his performance was outstanding – not just the goal he scored, but all night he was a threat.
“And he was unlucky not to come away with a couple of goals. Then we would have been in a very different position.”
Krul was making his first appearance since February – the goalkeeper suffered an ankle problem in the Europa League’s Round of 32 – and he was kept busy on his return to the starting XI.
The 25-year-old made a series of first-half saves, and was helpless for Benfica’s second goal, created by a misjudged backpass from left-back Davide Santon.
“Tim was called in early and made some great saves,” added Pardew.
“That settled him down. He looked composed and had a great performance.”
Pardew won’t have any players back from injury, and the knocks suffered by Danny Simpson and James Perch at the Estadio da Luz were today being assessed by the club’s medical staff.
However, cup-tied forward Yoan Gouffran seems certain to come into the side.