The steely side of Newcastle United, which has characterised many of their performances this season, was again in evidence on Sunday afternoon as they fought resolutely to earn a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield. Yohan Cabaye’s clinical finish from an acute angle, brilliantly set-up by Hatem Ben Arfa, gave the visitors the lead against the run of play just before half-time. However, an expertly taken goal by Luis Suarez midway through the second-half denied the Magpies – who played the closing stages with 10 men after Fabricio Coloccini‘s sending off – a first win in the fixture since 1994.
Coloccini received his marching orders from referee Anthony Taylor after cynically fouling Suarez, which leaves the Argentine facing a three-match Premier League suspension. The prospect of losing his inspirational captain for a spell, combined with Demba Ba, Cabaye and James Perch sustaining injuries at Anfield, will undoubtedly be of major concern to Alan Pardew. This is especially since his side are scheduled to play six more games before November is out.
Upcoming then is a stern examination of a squad which, although not lacking in quality, does lack a little in depth relative to many of the other teams competing in the top half of the Premier League. In convincing Newcastle’s owner, Mike Ashley, to allow him to keep all those players who played a pivotal role in achieving a fifth place finish last term, Pardew by and large conceded the opportunity to bolster his playing resources. This places a great emphasis on those available to him being managed correctly if a competitive edge is to be retained in both the club’s domestic and European campaigns.
To date, Pardew can be said to have done this with great efficiency. A policy of deploying a combination of fringe and youth players to play alongside some more prominent figures in his starting XI for Europa League games has ensured that they are a force in that competition without compromising their ability to handle the demands of the Premier League. This therefore represents a formula for team selection which Pardew is likely to persevere with when deciding upon his starting XI for the game against Brugge on Thursday night.
There is a real possibility that Cheick Tiote will be play a part in the Brussels encounter, as it an opportunity for him to gain some vital match practice before he is eligible to return to Premier League action against Swansea City at St. James’ Park on November 17, following completion of a three game suspension.
Tiote’s combative, imposing style of play, acting as a shield to Newcastle’s defence and a foil for his more attack-minded colleagues to play freely, appears tailor made to shine in a European away game. Ultimately this is conditional on the Ivorian avoiding any repeat of the ill-discipline which recently earned him a red card against Sunderland. There is nevertheless little doubt that Tiote’s presence could be vital in helping the Magpies take another step closer to the Europa League’s last 32.
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