Date: Thursday, 8th November.
Kick off: 6:00pm
Referee: L. Banti.
UK TV: ESPN.
Well, alot has happened in the world of Club Brugge since since our 1-0 victory against them at St James’ Park two weeks ago.
Back in those dim and distant days, their manager was Georges “Mack the Knife” Leekens (that’s his nickname, honest!) and they were top of the league, having just suffered their first league defeat of the season (1-4 against Zulte-Waregem). Since then however, they have suffered a further three defeats (not counting the one at St James’ Park), and Mack the Knife has been given the order of the boot!
So, will all of this Belgian bedlam be a good thing for our quest to preceed to the next stage of the Europa League ASAP? Or will this make the planning for this game more complex for Alan Pardew? Leekens was sacked following their last game (another defeat to Zulte-Waregem), so our Silver Supremo will be facing a team which will be far more of an unknown quantity under caretaker, Philippe Clement, who is the club’s reserve team coach. Will it be a case of “business as usual” for the team under Clement, or will he strike out with his own tactical ideas to try and arrest the team’s slump in both the Belgian Jupiler League and the Europa League? Of course, there is always the old cliche about the “wounded animal.” Altogether, this will add a bit unpredictabilty to preceedings this evening, both for Pardew and myself in preparing this humble preview. I did as much homework as I could on Brugge in my previous preview, but who knows now?
Well, as you will guess from the paragraphs above, there are quite a few “L”s in Club Brugge’s recent form table. The last six games in all competetitons for both Brugge and Newcastle United look like this (most recent first):
Club Brugge KV: – L | L | L | L | L | D.
Newcastle United: D | W | W | D | L | W.
So, an easy victory to the Magpies there, with most of those games being played in a much tougher Premiership to boot. However, I daresay that many of us will be expecting Pardew to throw out a few of the bairns onto the pitch this evening if previous games are anything to go by, which could be a great leveller. After all, we were very lucky to clear our first hurdle against Atromitos when the referee missed an incident which could have seen Tim Krul being sent off, and a penalty awarded to our Greek opposition. If you recall, the two games ended 3-2 on aggregate.
It will be interesting to take a look at what bookmakers opinions of our European chances are and to be honest who if us reading this doesn’t secretly think the Toon can bring home the silverware.
Team news and squads.
Like Newcastle United, it’s a long injury for Brugge, with Philippe Clement only having a squad of 18 proper first team players and only two midfielders, Jesper Jorgensen and Vadis Odjidja, to choose from. This has led to Clemant drafting in three youndsters from their Under 21 side, Nikolas Storm, Nathan Lagrou and Brandon Mechele. Midfielder, Victor Vasquez, is out long term with his collarbone and highly influential, free scoring winger, Lior Refaelov, has also failed a fitness test. Refaelov has scored six goals and has provided the same number of assist for Brugge so far this season, so he will probably be sorely missed. Young striker Ivan Trickovski is on the doubtful list but one player who will be fit unfortunately is their Columbian hitman, Carlos “Chew” Bacca. His tally for the season so far is now 14 goals in 18 appaearences, along with 5 assists. See below for the full list of casualties.
Vladan Kujovic (G), Arthur Hannes (G), Bojan Jorgacevic (G), Tom Høgli (D), Carl Hoefkens (D), Michael Almebäck (D), Ryan Donk (D), Jordi Figueras (D), Bart Buysse (D), Björn Engels (D), Brandon Mechele (D), Jesper Jørgensen (M), Vadis Odjidja (M), Birger Verstraete (M), Maxime Lestienne (M), Mohamed Tchité (F), Ivan Trickovski (F), Carlos Bacca (F), Bjorn Vleminckx (F), Nikolas Storm (F), Nathan Lagrou.
Knacked: Sven Dhoest, Fredrik Stenman, Jim Larsen, Niki Zimling, Lior Refaelov, Thomas Meunier, Thibaut Van Acker (Mumps), Victor Vazquez.
Doubtful: Ivan Trickovski,
Suspended: Jonathan Blondel (3 yellows)
Of course, we have had a bit of a problem with Captain Coloccini and Cheick Tiote picking up straight red cards and the consequent three game suspensions. though this is bad for our Premiership campaign, it will actually be an advantage for this one, as the two “purple” players will almost certainly feature now they have been made redundant in the Premiership for a while. However, I will hand things over to the Silver Supremo now, as he knows more than anyone, and he gave the full S.P. on how the side is faring injury wise as we go into the game. Take it away Alan!
“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. We saw enough from Brugge in the game at St James’ to know that they’ll pose a threat on their home ground.”
Thanks Alan. Of course, there is also the long term knacked knee casualties, Haris Vuckic, Ryan Taylor and Dan Gosling, along with Rob Elliot and his Groin / Pelvis injury, which just about rounds things up.
Newcastle United: Tim Krul (G), Steve Harper (G), Rob Elliot (G), Danny Simpson, James Tavernier, Shane Ferguson, Strven Taylor, James Perch, Mike Williamson, Davide Santon, Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Vurnon Anita, Gael Bigirimana, Sylvain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan, Mehdi Abeid, Romain Amalfitano, Sammy Ameobi, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Shola Ameobi, Adam Campbell.
Knacked: Ryan Taylor, Dan Gosling, Haris Vuckic (all knee), Demba Ba (Calf/Shin), Yohan Cabaye (Hamstring), James Perch (Thigh strain), Rob Elliot (Groin / Pelvis).
What the managers are saying.
Alan Pardew: “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. The squad is really being stretched at the moment, and there’s no doubt that events at Anfield at the weekend have hurt us.”
Philippe Clement: “I do not believe there were saboteurs who wanted Georges Leekens out of the club. However, there were groups in the squad who were like islands. The commitment of some of those players on the islands was limited. We must now get back to playing as a unit again.”
Even though we are away this time and we only won by a single goal at home, we should still be favourites for this one, especially so with Brugge’s recent dire form. However things are also highly dependent on which team Pardew puts out with his own injury concerns and the Premiership to think about. Of course, there is also the uncertainty caused by the change of coach at Brugge, with Pardew’s homework on Leekens going out the window if Brugge’s new coach comes in with a different style. These kinds of turmoil can throw up some surprises sometimes if the players decide they have a point to prove and so on… Still, it should add some excitement to the game at least, but hopefully with a positive result for the Magpies at the final whistle, when we can start to look forward to the next stage of our current Euro adventure.
Howay the Lads!