NEWCASTLE UNITED new boy Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has warmed up for Thursday’s journey to Ukraine by warning Metalist Kharkiv to fear the worst when the two teams meet for a perfectly poised second leg.
Yanga-Mbiwa’s first start in a Magpies shirt was tinged with disappointment in the first meeting when the visitors to St James’ Park left with a hard-earned goalless draw.
And there was enough evidence from Metalist’s display to suggest Newcastle have plenty to worry about ahead of the long return trip later this week when an away goal could be a crucial factor in the last-32 tie.
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Yanga-Mbiwa has only been on Tyneside for a few weeks following his £6.7m switch from French champions Montpellier, but he has already seen enough progress from the group to believe a place in the next round can be achieved.
“The most important thing when you play at home in Europe is not to concede, the manager told us that beforehand, and we were really pleased we were able to do that,” said Yanga-Mbiwa.
“We’ll be going to Kharkiv looking to score so that the odds are in our favour. After what we saw at St James’ Park, I’m confident we can score out there. With the new players that have come into the squad, we are continuing to improve.
“We’re really getting stuck in. Little by little the improvements are starting to come. We’ve got to make sure we get forward more, and that we continue to play the way we are. If we can do that, I can see us scoring a lot more goals in the future.”
In the first leg striker Papiss Cisse had two goals ruled out for offside and the first, in particular, was debatable. The decision not to allow either means Newcastle will head to Ukraine as the underdogs.
But Yanga-Mbiwa said: “We played well. We got off to a good start and we made a lot of chances. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take them and get the goals we wanted but we came away from the game with a lot of positives. I’m sure in the second leg we’ll go out there, score some goals and hopefully come away with a victory.”
Newcastle will fly out to Kharkiv on Wednesday morning and Yanga-Mbiwa knows he is set for a second successive start.
He has had to bide his time so far, starting all three Premier League games since his arrival on the bench. The ineligibility of Mathieu Debuchy, who was not named in the Europa League squad, however, means he will probably be asked to slot in a rightback again.
“I think this competition is important for the whole squad, not just for me, we all want to advance and progress in Europe,” said the 23-yearold.
“We want to win the trophy because that way we will be able to play in Europe again next season.
“I think the squad is very competitive – it’s not just a strong first 11, but everyone who sits on the bench too.
Everyone wants to win.”
While Yanga-Mbiwa has been satisfied with Newcastle’s performances since he was one of five new January buys added to the squad, he is also confident he will adjust quickly to the Premier League when he is handed a first start domestically.
“It’s been a while since I played a full 90 minutes but I came to Newcastle to play football and fight for the team.
“I’m here to continue to progress personally and to keep learning,” said the French international, knowing the visit of Southampton this Sunday is next on the horizon.
“Playing 90 minutes on Thursday was important for me in that respect, but it also helps to keep me on my toes in case I’m called on in the Premier League.
“I know if that happens I will need to be solid defensively, and playing against Kharkiv will help me to do that.”
Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias, meanwhile, is understood to have been in Glasgow where he was invited along to discuss the renaming of Rangers’ Ibrox home.
The Gers are exploring the possibility of selling the rights to the famous stadium’s name and have heard how Llambias feels the move should be dealt with on the back of his own experience of such a route at St James’ Park.