JAMES Perch is backing Newcastle United’s French legion to take the fight to Metalist Kharkiv.
Alan Pardew’s side face the Ukrainian club tomorrow night in the first leg of the club’s Europa League Round of 32 tie.
Up to now, Pardew, mindful of the demands of the Premier League, has named significantly-weakened teams in the competition.
However, with the Europa League now into the knockout stages, Pardew has pledged to field a “strong” starting XI at St James’s Park against Metalist.
Pardew has available Moussa Sissoko, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Massadio Haidara, all signed from French clubs in last month’s transfer-window, for the knockout stages.
And utility player Perch – who has made five Europa League appearances so far in the competition – feels Newcastle have the strength in depth to progress to the last 16.
“It’s great to have some of the new players who’ve come in available – that will help us,” Perch told the Gazette.
“For the lads who played in the group stages, it’s something we want to continue to do well in. We’re all up for this competition.
“It almost got forgotten about because our last game in Bordeaux seems such a while ago, but now it’s back, and so is the excitement. We’re all looking forward to it.”
Pardew – who will be without the injured Sammy Ameobi (hamstring) – has assured supporters that he doesn’t want the hard work of the previous eight games to be wasted.
And he feels Metalist deserve “respect” for their European campaign so far.
“It’s competition we’d all love to win,” said Pardew. “It’s difficult to get through the group stage, make no mistake, so we don’t want that hard work to be for nothing.
“I’ll be picking a strong side. The new lads who arrived last month have given us greater depth, so I’ll take advantage of that with my team selection.
“Metalist are a good side – you just have to look at the teams they finished above in their group to realise that – so they’ll get our full respect.
“But the last 16 is in our reach, and there could be some big ties ahead for us.
“I’m sure our fans would relish bringing more big European nights to St James’s Park, so we’ll be doing everything we can to progress and deliver that.”
Metalist won Group K, which also featured Bayer Leverkusen, Rosenborg and Rapid Vienna. Newcastle finished runners-up of Group D, which was won by Bordeaux.
Meanwhile, Newcastle’s campaign in the Viareggio Cup, an Italian youth tournament, got off to a losing start.
Willie Donachie’s side lost 2-1 to AC Milan yesterday in the first of their three group games.