With qualification to the knockout stages of the Europa League already guaranteed Newcastle head to Bordeaux tonight to take on their French opponents in a dead rubber. The only thing worth playing for is the right to top the group, with the home side holding a one point advantage over the travelling Geordies.

However, they almost didn’t travel at all, as severe snow hit Tyneside and delayed the outbound flight for the first-team squad. After a number of hours, they finally arrived in France and the local weather isn’t quite as bad as it was in the Baltic North-East.

The squad that travelled is much changed to the one we have been seeing in European competition this season, with more youngsters set for first-team debuts as Alan Pardew rests his big names for Monday’s clash with Fulham.

Pardew has confirmed that bad boy striker Nile Ranger will start up front for his side, while Shola Ameobi could partner him as he recovers from a groin injury. It must surely be Ranger’s last chance to salvage something from his Newcastle career, as court orders and driving bans litter his fledgling career so far.

Conor Newton and Yven Moyo may be in line for debuts as Alan Pardew prepares to give his young players some European experience while Adam Campbell is also in the squad. Gael Bigirimana will start after his superb goal against Wigan on Monday, and Mehdi Abeid is also in contention for a midfield slot.

Davide Santon, Demba Ba and Cheick Tiote did not travel, although all three are expected to be fit for the clash with Fulham in four days time.

Bordeaux currently sit 6th in the French league after a draw with lowly Sochaux at the weekend and will likely be rotating their squad as the travellers are. As mentioned before, only who tops the group is still to be decided and whoever that may be will be seeded in the draw for the knockout stages on December 20.

A few big names dropped out of the Champions League this week, as Chelsea, Benfica and Ajax enter the competition and look to salvage something of their European seasons. Any of them would be nice to avoid in the early knockout rounds, so there is something of a carrot dangling in front of the winners of tonight’s clash.