Maritimo ready for Toon test
Maritimo boss Pedro Martins is not about to be lulled into a false sense of security by Newcastle counterpart Alan Pardew.
The Magpies manager arrived in Madeira earlier today without many of his big names, some as a result of injury, suspension and illness, others by choice as he attempts to handle the demands of a long season.
However, despite seeing the visitors train at the Estadio dos Barreiros on Wednesday evening without Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Cisse or Demba Ba, Martins is still expecting a tough opening Group D encounter.
He said: "It is not a surprise for me because in the first five or six games, the have used 23 or 24 players, so the manager is mixing up his players.
"He has brought these players because at the moment, it's the best team he has."
Asked later by a local journalist if his squad selection meant he was expecting an easy game, Pardew replied with a smile: "I don't think so.
"We have an important game on Sunday in the Premier League [against Norwich] which we have to look to, and that is our priority.
"But this competition is important to us and we have brought a strong team here."
Maritimo warmed up for the game with a creditable 1-1 home draw with Sporting Lisbon on Sunday, 24 hours before Newcastle recovered from a poor first-half display at Everton to snatch a point.
The Premier League side have endured a mixed start to the new season after the heroics of the last campaign but again, Martins is expecting a difficult 90 minutes.
Asked how he had viewed the Magpies' start, Martins said: "It's normal. They beat Tottenham, which was a good result, and then they lost at Chelsea, which is normal because Chelsea are a very strong team.
"They played on Monday night and had a good second half, they were very, very strong.
"They play in a very British way and it will be a very, very difficult game."
Maritimo earned their place in the group stage of the competition by defeating Asteras on away goals after drawing 1-1 in Greece, and then Georgians Dila, winning 1-0 at home and 2-0 away.
That unbeaten start to their campaign has given them confidence that they can extend it by making life intensely difficult for Newcastle in the humid conditions at their stadium.
Martins said: "It's very important to win your home games. That is our short-term aim so we can be strong in the future."
Maritimo's experience of English opposition is limited to the two UEFA Cup ties they played against Leeds during the 1998-99 and 2001-02 seasons.
They lost both away legs but won both of their home games, although the Yorkshiremen were ultimately triumphant on both occasions.