It may seem a rather innocuous match on the surface, but tomorrow's match against Bordeaux will be a landmark one for Newcastle United regardless of the result. It will mark the 100th match in UEFA competition for the club. Newcastle's record in European is surprisingly good for not having won any of the major competitions on the mainland - 57 wins, 18 draws and 24 losses. Add on top of that the 6-match home winning streak that they have enjoyed as a club, and there are many fun numbers which would give someone a false impression of what might come, but as we all know, these numbers are protracted over a number of years - Steve Harper, Shola Ameobi and Steven Taylor are the only players who would have been in the squad the last time the Toon lost a European match at home (August 3, 2005 a 2-1 reverse v. Deportivo la Coruna in the Inter-Toto Cup).
Newcastle will have a lot of overcoming to do if they are to continue their European home winning streak, and Bordeaux will not be the easiest of tasks - they are top of Group D after the first matchday, having achieved the joint-largest margin of victory of the first set of matches (4-0) in their match v. Club Brugge. The French side dominated the Belgians every bit as much as is suggested by the scoreline. Struggling for form and down to one recognized center back following the calf injury to Steven Taylor, I can personally think of two other clubs in the group that I would rather see heading into town at this particular time than Bordeaux. Sitting fifth in Ligue 1 currently, Bordeaux sport an undefeated record through seven matches having won 3 and drawn 4. Beyond that, they come to Newcastle undefeated in their last 17 competitive matches.
The casual fan will likely not recognize very many of the names in the Bordeaux squad, but sifting through match reports on their official website keys us in to some of their danger men.
Ludovic Obraniak is a Polish international who has scored twice this season and assisted three times for Bordeaux - and has been on fine form through their last several matches. Albeit in a rather small sample size of reading, his name is connected quite often with striker Yoan Gouffran when he appears on the score sheet.
Another name that shows up frequently in a positive light in Bordeaux match reports is Gregory Sertic. The left winger has appeared 9 times (3 substitute appearances), adding a goal and considerable graft. 4 yellow cards either indicate that he is a bit of a wing-Tiote or that he may be vulnerable to get behind and he is forced to foul in recovery - either way, match reports indicate that Sertic is an influential player for Bordeaux.
Henri Saivet is another name that frequently shows up in the match reports, though before digging deeper, my impression was that he was perhaps more of an a-mid or midfielder as he frequently shows in the reports as a provider. With 2 goals from 9 appearances (5 substitute), he is not their primary goal threat, but if he is on the pitch tomorrow is definitely one that we will want to keep an eye on. Both of his goals have come on headers, so if Steven Taylor is unavailable for the match (which seems inevitable), it would not be particularly surprising if Bordeaux were to play Saivet to put the pressure on James Perch who seems most likely to slide into the CB position.
Jussie is a Brazillian striker who has also logged 2 goals in 9 appearances for Bordeaux (4 subs), also scoring both of his goals from headers. Previously, it seems you get either one or the other Jussie or Saivet, but again, with Newcastle's injury trouble at CB, I'd not be surprised to see both at some point if not from the start to give their star man a bit of a rest.
Yoan Gouffran is the man for Bordeaux, scoring 5 goals in their 9 matches thus far. Known as a pacy striker who can finish with either foot, he has scored 2 of his goals off his right foot, 2 from headers and 1 from a penalty.
Putting 1 and 1 together, it seems that Newcastle's opponents will look to put the pressure on Davide Santon and Vurnon Anita or whichever RB replacement Pardew selects and then by extension the Toon's desperate situation at CB. With the league match at Old Trafford looming on Sunday, it would seem that Alan Pardew will rest as many of his first team regulars as he can within reason, so it could be a fairly under-strength side that takes the pitch at St. James' Park.
Newcastle United (4-4-1-1): Harper | Anita, Williamson, Perch, Santon | Obertan, Gosling, Bigirimana, Ferguson | Marveaux | Cisse
Bordeaux (4-3-3): Carasso | Henrique, Mariano, Planus, Tremoulinas | Sane, Diabate, Obraniak | Gouffran, Jussie, Saivet
Between form and injuries, particularly to the defense, I don't feel one bit of good about this match. It has the look of one that we may play for the draw when we really should be after the full three points. I don't believe that Bordeaux are going to be intimidated by the Toon Army and will take the game to an understrength Newcastle side.
What Will Certainly Not Happen:
Newcastle United 1 (Cisse) - 2 (Gouffran, Saivet) Bordeaux