Newcastle United should look to Rocky Balboa for inspiration tonight
AS NEWCASTLE United jetted in to Kharkiv on the eve of their season-defining Europa League tie with Metalist, the snowy scenery and wide open countryside of the former Soviet Union brought memories of Rocky IV flooding back.
In it Sly Stallone took on 6ft 5in giant Dolph Lundgren before beating him in the final showpiece.
But only after braving plummeting temperatures and getting over a culture shock. In the plot those scenes of Rocky Balboa training hard in the snow while residing in a log cabin proved enough to inspire him to victory despite being the underdog.
Just a movie?
Well, it inspired US Olympians Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte to prepare for the London Games last year by using a log cabin and carry out similar training techniques.
For the Magpies, though, their training is done, but like Rocky in the box office smash they must now acclimatise to the freezing conditions here in one of the far corners of eastern Europe and overcome what will be a hostile crowd.
Unlike Metalist, United opted to head to Kharkiv just a day before the second leg of the last-32 encounter.
Of course, officially the Ukrainians are still on their winter break and Continental competition comes at a bad time for them.
However, they will still be looking to unleash a knockout blow on Alan Pardew's side.
United fans arrived in Kharkiv with the temperature at a balmy zero degrees.
But by the time Pardew had arrived for his compulsory UEFA Press call, it had plummeted to minus two.
Yet as the dated Soviet-style trams rattled past the hi-tech Metalist Stadium it was clear that this will be one of the most intimidating atmospheres they have faced during their Europa League experience thus far.
Local youths poled hundreds of flags that will be waving in the Siberian winter air at kick-off time tomorrow.
Around the corner at the stadium's tattoo studio was having a permanent reminder of his loyalty applied to his arm.
Yet that could be nothing compared to the home fans stamping their authority on this tie come kick-off time later.
A near full house of 40,000 will cram into a stadium that was used in Euro 2012.
Nicknamed the Spider, the venue is surrounded by high-rise flats which demonstrate the days of communism are far from forgotten.
Is it intimidating? Undoubtedly. With giant banners pinned from top to bottom of those flats it is clear that everybody has bought into the city's passion for football. Under grey skies they are making their own sporting history here. Newcastle United's task is to make sure they don't become a memorable chapter here.
Be in no doubt about it, should they KO the Magpies tonight, they'll be talking about it for years to come. And long after United have made the 2,000-mile journey home.
By then we'll know who has won this East versus West battle and who needed help being picked back up off the canvas.