Newcastle United have been to Portugal a few times over the years, and I’ve been lucky enough to report on a few of them.
One anecdote came to mind ahead of tonight’s game against Porto at the Estadio do Dragao. Alan Pardew won’t forget the club’s Europa League quarter-final against Benfica any time soon.
If Pardew had thought the press in England were bad at times, he hadn’t reckoned with the Portuguese.
The night before the first leg against Benfica at the Estadio da Luz, Pardew answered questions from Portuguese and English journalists at the stadium after his team’s training session.
United’s manager was asked how he felt Benfica would do in the Premier League. It was something of a loaded question. Pardew’s honest answer – that Benfica would be a top-10 side, but not one of the main title challengers – didn’t go down well with Newcastle’s proud hosts.
One newspaper had a headline of “you are burnt steak”, a Portuguese insult, aimed at Pardew on the morning of the game.
Benfica won the first leg 3-1, though there wasn’t much between the two sides at the Estadio da Luz.
Papiss Cisse gave United hope in the second leg at St James’s Park with a second-half goal, but Newcastle went on to lose 4-2 on aggregate.
United haven’t been in Europe since that season, so when will they be back?
Benitez, having to sell to buy this summer, would love to take the club back into European competition,but this season, sadly, will be all about Premier League survival.