Friday, March 18, 2005

A Sporting chance?

Inevitable, I guess. Having already played Sporting Lisbon twice this season, if you count the pre-season friendly, we've now drawn them for the two-legged UEFA Cup quarter-final.

The away leg will allow us to experience the venue at which the final will be held, and at least now we know that if we manage to make it that far we won't be facing a team playing on home turf.

Of course, the draw was all the more inevitable considering that many Geordies were willing on-loan Toon midfielder Hugo Viana and his team-mates to knock North-East rivals Middlesbrough out of the competition, which they duly did last night with a 1-0 home win to record a 4-2 aggregate victory.

Had Middlesbrough succeeded in triumphing against the odds, we would have probably had an easier tie against a team badly hit by injuries to key players. As it is, Sporting are a very skilful and neat side who gave us a testing examination at St James's Park in the final game of the group stage. Their demolition of Middlesbrough in the first leg suggests we need to be very wary, but the way they relaxed and conceded two late goals to give the Smogs a fighting chance also gives us reason to believe we can progress.

Thankfully, Viana will once again not be permitted to line up against us. Lessons have been learnt from last season's Lua Lua debacle, it seems. Although, of course, there's no such restriction preventing our former striker inflicting damage on us tomorrow...


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