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Brugge ready to face Newcastle's "human wall"
CLUB Brugge midfielder Bart Buuysse is preparing to face a “human wall” when he lines up against Newcastle United this evening.
Buuyse played alongside Magpies midfielder Cheik Tiote at FC Twente and is all too aware of the Ivorian's combative qualities.
With Tiote set to start tonight's Group D game ahead of the start of a three-match domestic ban, Buuyse has warned his team-mates to expect a ferocious encounter.
“I played with Tiote and he was one of our better players,” said the Belgian, who has previously appeared at St James' Park as part of the Zulte Waregem team that suffered a 4-1 aggregate defeat in the last 32 of the UEFA Cup in 2007. “He is a human wall with two legs.
“They have strong forwards and a number of international midfielders. It will be difficult for us. It is hard to figure out how they will be playing because they turn the team around regularly. Getting a good result will be hard, but that does not mean we won't be going for it 100 per cent.”
Buuysse is not the only Brugge player with previous experience of playing at St James' as the Belgian side's skipper, Carl Hoefkens, also appeared at the ground with West Brom.
“It's always special playing a Premier League team,” said Hoefkens. “I couldn't play (against Birmingham) last season because I was injured at the time, so I'm very excited that I can play this time.
“A lot of my friends will be there to watch the game and I expect a wonderful atmosphere. Newcastle will be something else entirely to Birmingham. They are a top team in the Premier League, even though they have had their struggles in the recent past. Facing Newcastle will be a huge challenge.”
Having been thumped 4-0 by Bordeaux in their opening Europa League game, Brugge responded impressively to secure a 2-0 win over Maritimo last time out.
That leaves them just a point behind Newcastle in the table, and they remain at the top of the Belgian league despite last weekend's surprise 4-1 defeat to Oud-Heverlee Leuven.
Belgian football has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years with the likes of Simon Mignolet, Thomas Vermaelen, Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard and Marouane Fellaini playing in the Premier League, and Brugge head coach Georges Leekens is confident the good times are returning to the Belgian game.
“There was a negative spirit in Belgian football a few years ago, but I think it has gone now,” said Leekens, who was a member of the Brugge team that lost to a Kevin Keegan-inspired Liverpool in the UEFA Cup final in 1976. “We had an awful time, you don't have to tell me about that, but little by little we are growing and we deserve the respect we are starting to get now.
“I'm very proud when I see Belgian players doing well in England and other parts of Europe. I am sure the Belgian national team will continue to improve, and I hope the clubs will follow. As a club, Brugge have a fantastic history and we are determined to come back.”