ALAN Pardew has warned that crisis-torn Club Brugge will not be Europa League easy meat for a Newcastle United side who will powered by the presence of key men Cheick Tiote and Fabricio Coloccini tomorrow night.
United fly into Belgium this afternoon to be confronted by a Brugge team that is making front-page news for all the wrong reasons.
The team’s form has flat-lined and boss George Leekens was sacked on Sunday less than a year into a lucrative deal, with Brugge now seeking to halt the £2.5m compensation he is due for the remaining three years of his contract.
It seems like the perfect environment for United to effectively secure their passage into the last 32, but Pardew believes that the Jupiler League side will be a “different proposition” on their own turf and will not be drawn into the trap of supposing a win is assured.
United will be without Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba and James Perch through injury, but will include Coloccini and Tiote, who are both suspended from domestic duty.
Pardew looks set to partner Shola Ameobi and Papiss Cisse up front in a 4-4-2 formation, while Sammy Ameobi and Shane Ferguson will get another starting opportunity along with Gabriel Obertan, who has prospered in Europe so far this season.
There is a big call in the centre of midfield with Gael Bigirimana and Vurnon Anita a possible combination for Pardew, who has concerns about Dutch international Anita’s ability to adapt to the cut and thrust of Premier League action.
Whichever starting line-up he goes with, Pardew will be motivated by the desire to have Newcastle’s place in the knockout stages wrapped up long before CS Maritimo’s visit to St James’ Park in a fortnight.
Pardew (pictured left) said: “It’s an opportunity to get the qualification sorted, and that’s what we want to do.
“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 (Cheick) 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.”
With Leekens departed, ex-Brugge player Philippe Clement will take interim charge of a club that need to win tomorrow night to keep alive their hopes of catching Newcastle.
United were narrow victors in the previous meeting of the two sides a fortnight ago, but they had their moments and Pardew is all-too-aware of how difficult it is to grind out away wins in Europe.
So far Newcastle are unbeaten on their travels but have not won either of their two away games: drawing in Greece against Atromitos and in Madeira against CS Maritimo.
He said: “We saw enough from Brugge in the game at St James’ to know that they’ll pose a threat on their home ground.
“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.”
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