ALAN PARDEW has confirmed that Fabricio Coloccini and Cheik Tiote will start in Belgium tomorrow as Newcastle United attempt to secure their qualification from the Europa League group stage.
The Magpies take on Club Brugge at the Jan Breydel Stadion knowing that a victory will guarantee their passage into the knock-out phase of the competition provided Maritimo do not pull off a surprise success in Bordeaux.
Pardew will make a number of changes tomorrow, partly to rest some of his key players ahead of Sunday’s Premier League game with West Ham and partly because a flurry of injuries at Anfield last weekend have forced his hand.
However, Coloccini and Tiote, both of whom are suspended for the game against the Hammers after receiving red cards against Liverpool and Sunderland respectively, will provide some much-needed experience as Newcastle look to extend their unbeaten European record.
“It’s an opportunity to get the qualification sorted, and that’s what we want to do,”
said Pardew, who is expected to hand starts to the likes of Gael Bigirimana, Gabriel Obertan and Shola Ameobi.
“But it’s easier said than done because we’re all aware of Brugge’s qualities after the first game and we’re carrying three more big injuries after the trip to Liverpool at the weekend. “(Yohan) Cabaye, (James) Perch and Demba (Ba) definitely won’t play, so that’s three big players that are out of the equation before we’ve got on the plane. That doesn’t give me a lot of options to rest players or shuffle the team around.
“The squad is really being stretched at the moment, and there’s no doubt that events at Anfield at the weekend have hurt us. But because of their suspensions, (Fabricio) Coloccini and (Cheik) Tiote definitely come into the equation where they might not have in other circumstances.
“That will help, and I’m confident we’ll be going there with a strong enough team to hopefully get a win.”
Prior to their trip to the North-East for last month’s 1-0 defeat, Club Brugge had only lost once in Belgium’s Jupiler League and were top of the table.
Since then, they have suffered three successive defeats, a run that resulted in the shock dismissal of manager Georges Leekens last weekend.
With three points from their opening three Europa League matches, Club Brugge almost certainly need to win tomorrow to have any chance of qualifying for the last 32.
While their domestic form might have nosedived, Pardew is expecting Brugge to provide a stiff test if they repeat the standards they set on Tyneside.
“We saw enough from Brugge in the game at St James’ to know that they’ll pose a threat on their home ground,” said the Newcastle boss. “European teams at home are often a very different proposition to when they’re playing away.
“It will be a tough game - we’re under no illusions about that. It’s going to be important that we’re the ones controlling proceedings from the very first minute.
“We’ll do our best to do that and hopefully that will enable us to come away with another positive result in Europe.”