Newcastle will look to bounce back from a 1-1 draw against Sunderland, in the Tyne-Wear derby, over the weekend, with a second win in three games in the UEFA Europa League group stage. And they have the perfect chance to do that when Belgian's Club Brugge visit St James' Park. The Magpies have an amazing record against Belgian clubs - they've played six times and they've won all six. Better still, for Newcastle fans anyway, Brugge have never won a competitive game in England.
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Last season's surprise package, Newcastle seemed to start where they left off, with a 2-1 win over Tottenham in the opening round of games. Since then, however, Alan Pardew's men have stumbled and dropped points where they ought not to have, meaning they now find themselves in 11th place in the league, with only two wins and 10 points from eight games. A series of draws, some creditable, followed the win against Spurs but it wasn't till they beat French side Bordeaux 3-0 in the last European game that the side looked like the Champions League contenders they were last season.
Unfortunately, all of that went down the drain with a 0-3 home defeat to Manchester United in the next game and although the draw at Sunderland was a good one, Pardew will know a lot needs to be done to get his side back up to speed and... as with Bordeaux... this could be a good starting point.
Newcastle lead a tight Group D, leading Brugge and Bordeaux by a single point, with Portuguese outfit Maritimo in fourth with one. Victory over Georges Leekens' side will go a long way to ensuring qualification for the next round.
Nevertheless, as with Liverpool's home game against Russians Anzhi Makhachkala in Group A, Pardew knows the Jupiler League leaders are a side to be respected. The 51 year old Englishman was quick to point out also that it was his unwillingness to consider French side Bordeaux a weak team that led to the strong result.
"We have to respect that Brugge are top of their league. We did that with Bordeaux and put a team out that was very strong, I thought. The same will go against Brugge also think the team on Thursday is a younger team, and I'm looking forward to seeing it. There's a lot of energy in it and we're hoping it's going to cause Brugge a lot of problems," Pardew explained.
Meanwhile, Brugge come into this game with the memory of a rather shocking 1-4 away defeat to OH Leuven over the weekend. The defeat was Leekens' first in the league and the first this season since losing a Champions League qualifier to Danish side FC Copenhagen in August.
The defeat, and its magnitude, could prey on the players' minds when the go out at St James' Park but Leekens was quick to both admit his disappointment and caution his players against repeating that poor performance against the Magpies.
"We created a lot of opportunities on Saturday. I do not think 4-1 was the correct score, in my view.The player got nervous for some reason and this was not good. When this happens, we lose. We cannot do that against a good team such as Newcastle. I expect a very difficult game in England," the 63 year old explained.
- Last Five (most recent first): D L W D L
- Last Match: Sunderland 1 - 1 Newcastle
- Last Five (most recent first): L D W D W
- Last Match: OH Leuven 4 - 1 Club Brugge KV
Newcastle: Pardew will be without midfielder Haris Vuckic, Rob Elliot, Ryan Taylor and Dan Gosling. However, the manager has confirmed Ivorian midfielder Chiekh Tiote will play and the recently returned from injury trio of goalkeeper Tim Krul and defenders Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini are also expected to play. In midfield, the French duo of Gabriel Obertan and Yohan Cabaye will start alongside Tiote, with Jonas Gutierrez completing the line-up. Shola Ameobi will likely start up front, as Pardew looks to rotate his minimal striking options, with possibly Papiss Cisse alongside.
Probable Line-Up: Krul; Simpson, Coloccini, Taylor, Ferguson; Obertan, Tiote, Cabaye, Gutierrez; Cisse, Ameobi
Club Brugge: The Belgians welcome back midfielder Jesper Jorgenson but could have to do without striker Mohamed Tchite and former West Brom defender Ryan Donk. Thomas Meunier, Jim Larsen, Niki Zimling and Fredrik Stenman are all definitely out injured.
Probable Line-Up: Jorgacevic; Hoefkens, Almeback, Figueras, Buysse; Odjidja, Blondel, Jorgensen; Refaelov, Bacca, Lestienne