Newcastle vs. Club Bruges: Picking The Ideal Toon Starting XI for Europa League
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Newcastle will be seeking the right balance of attack and caution on Thursday night, as they entertain Club Bruges ahead of a crucial clash with West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
Bruges lost their first game of the Belgian Pro League season last week, taking a 4-1 hammering away at Oud-Heverlee Leuven, so Newcastle will feel they have the advantage here.
Alan Pardew will likely rest some players that featured in the draw with Sunderland, and the starting lineup will take on a similar look to the ones sent out against Bordeaux and Maritimo.
Steve Harper kept his team in many games during September, and although the Toon are rumoured to be scouting his successor, Harper has done enough in European games this year to justify selection here.
Tim Krul had almost nothing to do at the Stadium of Light, but giving him the extra few days' rest ahead of the West Brom game is the right thing to do.
Likewise, Danny Simpson should be rested and James Tavernier given the opportunity to hold down the right-back position.
Tavernier was caught out on occasion in the 2-2 draw with Reading, but had an impressive preseason and this sort of fixture would be a good chance for him to show he’s learned from those mistakes.
Bruges are without an away win in Group D, so Steven Taylor and James Perch should prove capable of holding down the centre of defence, thus giving Williamson and Coloccini the chance to repeat their excellent derby performance in the game against West Brom.
Davide Santon has proven himself on the left side of the defence, and his attacking instincts will also serve Newcastle well as they look to make use of their home advantage.
The main threat for Bruges is likely to be Carlos Bacca, with the Colombian striker already having netted three Europa League goals, as well as nine goals in domestic competitions this season.
If Newcastle can deny him space and keep him off his right foot, they will shut down a large part of the Bruges attack.
Cheick Tiote will be suspended from the Premier League, so it makes sense to use him whenever possible. The Bruges midfield is geared towards getting the ball forward, with players like Lior Rafaelov and former Tottenham player Jonathan Blondel being the creative force behind the team.
Having Tiote and Vurnon Anita in the centre will help to stifle these attacks and allow the Toon to control the pace of the game. They are both strong defensive midfielders and should dominate that area, as well as feeding Gabriel Obertan and Shane Ferguson on the wings.
The Bruges defence should allow Obertan plenty of chances to get forward, and his assist for Shola Ameobi against Bordeaux will help to justify his selection in this game. Expect another impressive night against European opposition for the Frenchman.
Papiss Cisse has been struggling for form in the Premier League, but he also found the net against Bordeaux, so it makes sense to let him continue to find his rhythm in the Europa League.
Ameobi deserves to partner Cisse up front; partially to rest Demba Ba ahead of the Premier League game, but equally to atone for his substitution in the derby that was forced upon Pardew by Tiote’s dismissal.
It should really be a comfortable win for the Magpies at St. James’ Park, and Pardew will feel confident that he has the depth to beat Bruges by fielding a team that rests nearly all his headline players.
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