THE theory at the start of the season was that Newcastle United were going to keep their strongest team back from the Europa League to concentrate on the Premier League.
Given all the domestic suspensions the Magpies are totting up then the situation is in danger of quickly reversing.
Defender Fabricio Coloccini joins midfield hardman Cheick Tiote on the bread and butter sidelines after a needless stamp in the direction of Liverpool pest Luis Suarez in Sunday’s 1-1 fortunate draw.
Did he make contact? Hard to say even after studying all the action replays.
Should he have attempted to in the first place? Definitely not.
Besides, the last time I remember he tried this stunt, at Sheffield United in 2009, he definitely made contact with the opponent but stayed on the pitch.
Another case of what goes around, comes around.
Just as Suarez cannot complain about the penalty he did not get early doors as he would not have been playing in the first place if he had correctly received two yellow cards instead of just one in the Merseyside derby a week earlier.
With Coloccini and Tiote anchoring a scratch team at Club Brugge on Thursday night, Alan Pardew’s side have a better than expected chance of gaining their first away win of the season at the eighth attempt.
Winger Gabriel Obertan, mediocre at best in the Premier League, had the undoubted beating of the Belgian defence in the sides’ first Europa League encounter a fortnight ago and may prove to be an unlikely hero again.
It will not be convincing and the Newcastle six-yard box will most likely resememble the Alamo in the last 10 minutes.
But United and the travelling army of fans on their Brugge cruise – I think I wrote that correctly – may just get away with the victory that guarantees group qualification.
– GAVIN LEDWITH