Under-strength Newcastle will attempt to remain in the driving seat in Group D by beating Club Brugge, a team that sit on three points after two Europa League rounds. The Belgians arrive at St James Park hoping to bring at least one point home, but that is easier said than done.
Solid showing in Wear-Tyne derby
Having done so well to achieve a fifth-place finish in the Premier League and thus ensured Europa League qualification, Newcastle needed to improve the strength in depth in off season so that they would be well prepared for what awaits them this term. The club chiefs did a great job in the transfer market, as they not only kept hold of all key players, but also signed several quality footballers, making sure Alan Pardew has big enough squad to choose from. As a result, the Magpies have looked really good on all fronts this term, even if the difficult fixture list prevented them from climbing to the top half of the Premiership standings. Alan Pardew has been using under-strength sides in Europa League, but such a team completely outclassed very good Bordeaux side, beating them 3-0, meaning we can trust them to beat Club Brugge as well. Boosted by the impressive showing in the Wear-Tyne derby, the Magpies go into this game high on confidence.
Alan Pardew is set to make some changes to the starting line-up, but Papiss Cisse, Yohan Cabaye, Steven Taylor and James Perch should all start.
Selection headache for Club Brugge
Club Brugge have long ago ceased to be a force to be reckoned with in European football, and we can safely say they are no longer one of the top sides in Belgium as well. As expected, the team failed to reach Champions League group stages having been eliminated by FC Copenhagen, but they did see of Hungarian side Debrecen to make it to Europa League group stages. The 4-0 defeat to Bordeaux in their opening game proved the team are far from the desired quality needed to progress from this group, although they did show some improvement to beat Maritimo at home. However, the 4-1 loss to minnows OH Leuven at the weekend once again proved Club Brugge are completely out of form, and with several key players missing against Newcastle, the Belgians look destined for a defeat at St James Park.
Key defender Ryan Donk and top striker Mohamed Tchite miss out through injury, while defender Michael Almeback is very doubtful. The good news is Carl Hoefkens has recovered from concusion.
Newcastle are few classes above this Brugge side and having done so well to record a 3-0 win over Bordeaux, the Magpies look set for another comfortable victory. The visitors are completely out of confidence and cannot be expected to cause Newcastle any problems without three important players.
Our prediction: Newcastle with -1 Asian handicap
Odds: 2.19 (19/16)