By Simon Hart
Home form will be key to Newcastle United FC's prospects of progress in the UEFA Champions League. That was the message from their manager, Sir Bobby Robson, who on the eve of Feyenoord's Group E visit stressed: "We know we have to win our games at home - without that we won't qualify."
In good heart
Fortunately for Robson, his team enter the match in good heart following a 2-0 success against local rivals Sunderland AFC. After three straight losses - including defeat by FC Dynamo Kyiv in their opening Champions League fixture - Robson said the weekend win had "lifted the whole scene here".
'A great tonic'
"We had a good victory on Saturday, that was a great tonic for us," said Robson. "We know Feyenoord did remarkably well last year in winning the UEFA Cup, we know their reputation, but it's a home game for us and we haven't got any points on the board. We had a difficult encounter in Ukraine but we have three games at home and we hope to make them pay."
'Our most difficult test'
His Feyenoord counterpart, Bert van Marwijk, acknowledged Newcastle could provide his side's "most difficult" away assignment in the group. "The game against Sunderland was good for them and here with the public we know it will be tough," said the coach. He likened Newcastle to Rangers FC and Fenerbahçe SK - intimidating venues from which, it might be added, Feyenoord have emerged unbeaten in the past 12 months.
The last time Newcastle welcomed Dutch visitors was during their one previous Champions League campaign in 1997/98, when they suffered a 2-0 reverse against PSV. However, there are happier omens for the Geordies. Their only meeting with Feyenoord came in 1968/69, when they won 4-0 at St James' Park en route to lifting the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. Moreover, in ten trips to England, Feyenoord have won just once.
Feyenoord's equaliser in last week's 1-1 draw with Juventus FC came from a familiar source, a Pierre van Hooijdonk free-kick. That strike stretched their unbeaten record in European games to 13, and the big man was on target again in the 2-0 victory over De Graafschap on Saturday. Captain Paul Bosvelt returned for that match after missing Juventus's visit following his father's death but Ramon van Haaren damaged a hamstring meaning Tomasz Rzasa should fill the left-back slot on Tuesday.
Definitely playing is Brett Emerton, the Australian midfield player linked with a summer move to Newcastle - and consequently now the butt of his team-mates' jokes, according to Van Marwijk. "But I'm happy he stayed," he added.
Newcastle have no injuries and although forward Craig Bellamy managed just "the lightest of training" on Monday, Robson insisted he would be "up and ready" to face Feyenoord. After a seven-month absence, the Welshman took just 83 seconds to score on his first Premiership start of the season against Sunderland. Robson must hope lightning strikes twice.
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