Newcastle head to Belgium tomorrow evening when they travel to Club Brugge and their 29,042 capacity Jan Breydel Stadium knowing that a win on Belgian turf will be enough to secure passage into the knockout stages of the competition and ensure we have European football on the calendar in 2013.
Club Brugge lost against us at St James’ Park two weeks ago and although the score was only 1-0 to the home side on the night, the performance suggested that it was just about one of the most comfortable 1-0 wins I’ve seen in a while. Brugge did threaten on occasion but not enough to really justify getting anything out of the game.
In the build up to that game, Brugge arrived on Tyneside joint top of the Belgian Pro League having just suffered their first league defeat of the season. That was compounded by the defeat to us before they then went on to lose the next four of their domestic fixtures which has seen them plummet to 8th position in the table and part company with coach Georges Leekens.
Ex-Coventry City defender Philippe Clement will take charge of Club Brugge on a temporary basis. Clement was capped 38 times by Belgium and made 256 appearances for our opponents during a 10-year stint at the club as a player. Clement had been working as reserve coach before being called into action to deputise for the departed Leekens.
Newcastle will be without Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba, who have both been left on Tyneside in the hope of recovering for the visit of West Ham on Sunday after withdrawing prematurely against Liverpool. Dan Gosling, Haris Vuckic and Ryan Taylor are all still out.
Rob Elliot has returned to training and is fit to feature.
The big news though is likely to be the inclusion of our two naughty boys in Fabricio Coloccini and Cheik Tiote, both serving three game domestic bans for red card indiscretions against Liverpool and Sunderland respectively and both being kept match sharp in the Europa League.
It has already been suggested that we are likely to see a “weaker” side once more in Europe, and you can’t really argue against that at the moment as they have been doing the business and have got us to the verge of qualification. However I’m pleased they will be joined by senior heads such as Cheik Tiote and Fabricio Coloccini, just to give us that bit of stability and experience more than anything else.
As mentioned earlier, a win would see us qualify for the round of 32, but a draw also wouldn’t be a bad result away from home. Sure it would be nice to get it all wrapped up as early as possible but avoiding defeat is the main priority for me and anything else is a bonus which I’ll gladly take with both hands.
Howay the lads!
Date: Thursday, 8th November, 2012
Time: 6pm UK time – Live on ESPN
Venue: Jan Breydel Stadium, Brugge, Belgium