The Magpie’s recent progress has been forged on a basis of Franco-African talent. The well-documented recruitment process of Alan Pardew and Graham Carr has borne fruit domestically, with the side enthralling spectators in finishing in fifth place last season.
While Demba Ba, the spearhead of that team, has departed for pastures new, signing for Chelsea in January, the remaining squad is laced with impressive attacking talent.
Nigeria’s recent debutant Shola Ameobi was the hero as his second-half penalty sealed progression, in the tightest of margins, against Metalist Kharkiv. The Zaria-born frontman may only be reserved for the special occasions, but don’t be surprised to see him brought into action against Anzhi.
Papiss Cisse will likely be the Magpies’ starting forward, and Newcastle fans will be confident in his ability to make an impact in the latter stages. He will be supported by a crop of Francophone midfielders, many of whom have African backgrounds: Burundian youngster Gael Bigirimana was blooded in the early phases of the cup but may not be employed on such a big occasion; Massadio Haidara is of Senegalese descent; French international Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa was born in the Central African Republic; Hatem Ben Arfa was formerly eligible for Tunisia; Moussa Sissoko was born to Malian parents; Shola’s younger brother Sammy is also an option from the bench.
Cheick Tiote will also be a key player for the Toon Army, protecting the back line and providing the muscle in midfield.