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Rivals welcome European break

Published: Thursday 11 March 2004, 12.00CET
Newcastle United FC and RCD Mallorca can put domestic worries behind them when they meet tonight.

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Published: Thursday 11 March 2004, 12.00CET

Rivals welcome European break

Newcastle United FC and RCD Mallorca can put domestic worries behind them when they meet tonight.

It has been a mixed season for Newcastle United FC and RCD Mallorca, but on Thursday night the teams can resume their dreams of UEFA Cup glory.

Domestic stutters
Newcastle began their campaign with a surprise loss on penalties against FK Partizan in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, and face a tight struggle to gain the top-four place in the English Premiership that would allow them another campaign in that tournament.

Relegation worry
Meanwhile, Spanish Cup holders Mallorca are struggling against relegation, without a Primera División win since January. Indeed, their domestic cup defence ended at the hands of second division Levante UD in the last 16.

European form
By contrast, both teams are still able to take impressive UEFA Cup form into this tie. Newcastle have won all three of their home matches, scoring a total of eleven goals including their 3-1 win against Vålerenga IF last week. Meanwhile, Mallorca have a 100 per cent record from their away trips, a 3-0 win at FC Spartak Moskva setting up their own third-round triumph.

Trio could return
The home side go into this first leg rested from having not had a domestic fixture at the weekend. Midfield player Lee Bowyer remains suspended, but left-back Olivier Bernard's ban has finished. Midfield players Kieron Dyer and Darren Ambrose and striker Craig Bellamy have all had recent hamstring troubles, but have declared themselves fit and could be in line for selection. However, defender Andy Griffin will not recover in time from an achilles injury.

Sir Bobby wary
Manager Sir Bobby Robson watched Mallorca's 3-2 defeat by FC Barcelona at the weekend, and expects a severe challenge. "They are a big side," he told Newcastle's official website. "I think they had only one player who was under six foot [1.83m] tall so they will try and cause us problems. We have to respect them, because like ourselves they have overcome three teams to reach this stage."

Bruggink injured
One player who will not be causing Newcastle problems will be Dutch striker Arnold Bruggink, who played against the English side while at PSV Eindhoven in the UEFA Champions League in 1997. A knee injury sustained in training rules him out, while Andrija Delibašic is cup-tied - ironically because he was fielded by Partizan against Newcastle and in their resultant Champions League group campaign before moving to Spain.

Coach cautious
Visiting coach Luis Aragonés, who has defender Fernando Niño fit after an ankle injury, is displaying the same caution as his opposite number. "Newcastle are a difficult side, who boast some sensational players. They play a very direct game and apply a lot of pressure. I expect them to be especially dangerous in their own stadium."

Last updated: 11/03/04 11.05CET

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