ONSIDE: Newcastle United pray for St Valentine’s Day massacre

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MANY women suspect that they play second fiddle to their better halves’ true love.

So here cometh the acid test for Newcastle United supporters of a male persuasion.

Do they spend St Valentine’s Day taking their lasses out for a romantic meal or should they opt instead to watch the Toon take on Metalist Kharkiv in a far from glamorous Europa League round of 32 clash?

Never mind the fans, I am more concerned about which players are going to turn up at St James’s Park on Thursday night.

About the only football prediction I have got right so far this season concerned tomorrow’s game after the draw was made in December.

Newcastle unconvincingly qualified for the knock-out rounds by fielding weakened teams during the group stages.

But with Thursday’s first leg taking place prior to FA Cup fifth round weekend, Alan Pardew’s side were never going to have to worry about playing two matches within 72 hours.

Why not then capitalise on the unwelcome rest coming up and field a strong line-up against a Ukrainian side presumably rusty from their mid-season winter break?

Get yourself a nice four-goal lead, Alan, a St Valentine’s Day massacre no less, and you can rest even more first teamers during next week’s long trip east for the return leg.

Newcastle United, of course, don’t do simple.

A far more likely scenario is that the Magpies will go two or three ahead, replace their squad players with reserves around the 70-minute mark and concede an away goal just as many fans are rushing out of the ground to get the last of the weeping £1.99 bouquets on offer at their local petrol station.

Talk about for better and for worse.

Newcastle fans often experience both extremes in one game and Thursday night is unlikely to be an exception.

– GAVIN LEDWITH

@GLedwithHMail