Newcastle United could virtually secure qualification to the knockout stages of the Europa League tonight when they take on Belgian side Bruges. Reportedly, nearly 10,000 Geordies have made the trip across the channel to see their side, although only 2,600 tickets have been allocated to the travelling Toon Army.

Bruges city centre will have giant screens on which the ticketless fans can watch the action, which should create something of a Geordie home from home in the city.

Earlier this week, Bruges axed manager Georges Leekens and will head into the must win tie with reserve team coach Phillippe Clement in charge. When Bruges came to St James’ Park just a matter of weeks ago, they were top of the league in Belgium but now occupy 8th, such as their dramatic fall in form.

The main team news from a Magpies’ point of view is that forgotten Spanish striker Xisco has travelled with the squad and could make his first ever appearance under Alan Pardew. The last time he appeared for Newcastle was in the 6-0 home win over Aston Villa in 2010. The call up comes on the back of the former Deportivo man bagging a hat trick in a reserve fixture against Stoke City a fortnight ago.

Alan Pardew has confirmed that both Shola and Sammy Ameobi will start for his side, the first time brothers have appeared for Newcastle since 1952. The younger of the brothers will likely start from the left of midfield and be looking for a similar performance that he turned in to sink Bruges at St James’ Park in the reverse fixture, while Shola will once again lead the line up front.

Captain Fabricio Coloccini and Cheick Tiote are both banned from domestic competition but are available for European duty and will both start. Papiss Cisse could also start, being given another chance to rediscover top form.

Rob Elliot should return in goal as Steve Harper makes way, while Ryan Taylor, Haris Vuckic, Dan Gosling and James Perch are all sidelined. Top players Demba Ba, Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez and Danny Simpson have all stayed on Tyneside, as has teenage sensation Adam Campbell. Fringe players Romain Amalfitano, Gabriel Obertan and Gael Bigirimana will all continue to make a push for Pardew’s first team.

A win for the Magpies, coupled with a defeat for second-placed Bordeaux could send Newcastle clear of third place in the group by six points – all but guaranteeing a safe passage to the knockout stages of the competition.

By Chief Sports Writer, Marley Anderson