Newcastle United travel to Bordeaux on Thursday (6pm GMT, live on ESPN) with their place in the knockout stages of the Europa League already confirmed, but a chance to top the group still in sight.
Bordeaux, too, have already secured themselves a place in the last 32 and currently lead Group D on 10 points from the five matches played to date. Newcastle are second on nine points with Club Brugge and Maritimo already eliminated in third and fourth.
Newcastle need to win this in order to qualify as group winners, an honour that does have consequent benefits, namely avoiding the highest ranked Champions League teams that are parachuted into the competition at the start of the knockout phase.
Magpies coach Alan Pardew has, however, indicated that the team he sends out onto the Stade Jacques Chabin-Delmas pitch on Thursday will be far removed from the 11 that recorded Newcastle’s first win in eight matches with a 3-0 victory at home to Wigan on Monday night.
Top-scorer Demba Ba, midfielder Cheik Tiote and defender Davide Santon were all substituted after picking up knocks in that win. They are certain to be rested ahead of Newcastle’s away match against Fulham next Monday. Further alterations can be expected, with Pardew promising “a lot of changes” for the trip to France.
Pardew has generally put out mixed sides in the Europa League this season, blending first team regulars with young prospects and those on the fringes of the normal starting 11.
Gabriel Obertan, Gael Bigirimana and Sylvain Marveaux have been regular starters. Sammy Ameobi has impressed in his short cameo roles. The likes of Mike Williamson, James Perch and Vurnon Anita have been Premier League semi-regulars, while appearing in numerous Europa League matches.
These players have been supplemented by first team regulars as required, with Fabrizio Coloccini, Tim Krul and Papiss Demba Cisse each appearing at least three times during the group stage.
Newcastle are currently undefeated in the competition, recording two wins and three draws during the group stage. They may look back with regret at their 1-1 draw at home to Maritimo in the penultimate round of matches. A victory in that match would have left them needing just a draw in France to win the group.
Bordeaux were vanquished 3-0 when the two sides met at St James’ Park in early October. They were unable to deal with Newcastle’s strong, incisive attacking play, conceding three times from crosses swept into the area.
The French side did, however, look good in possession and their other group stage results, particularly at home, suggest they will make for tough opponents in this match.
Bordeaux have won both of their home matches, including a 4-0 thrashing of Club Brugge and are also undefeated at home in domestic play, recording three wins and three draws. They are currently sixth in Ligue 1, six points shy of league leaders Marseille, but just a point off third placed Saint-Etienne.
They have made a habit of dropping points with sloppily conceded goals, a trait again in evidence in their 2-2 draw at home to Sochaux on Saturday. Bordeaux led 2-1 going into the final five minutes only for defensive indecision to gift their opponents an 87th minute equaliser and a share of the spoils.
Coach Francis Gillot has generally employed most of his regular first team players in Europa League action, with usually no more than two or three changes from the normal domestic 11. He is likely to continue a similar selection policy here.
Bordeaux’s primary goal threat comes from Yoan Gouffran, scorer of seven goals domestically and four in the Europa League. A speedy striker who can finish off either foot, Newcastle will need to guard him closely if they are to avoid conceding.
Bordeaux v Newcastle Betting Tips
Bordeaux will be content to secure the point that would confirm them as group winners, while Newcastle would ideally like to win, but are likely to be considerably under strength and may not have enough quality to tip the balance in their favour.