DEMBA Ba and Cheik Tiote were among the players left behind on Tyneside today when Newcastle United’s squad left for Greece.
Manager Alan Pardew and his team flew to Athens this morning ahead of tomorrow night’s Europa League qualifier against Atromitos.
Ba and Tiote – who Pardew hopes will be fit to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday – were among those left out of the squad.
Pardew had hoped to involve Haris Vuckic and Shane Ferguson in the tie, but the pair – who have minor injuries – have also stayed behind.
However, Pardew will still field a radically different side to that which beat Tottenham last Saturday, with new signings Vurnon Anita, Gael Bigirimana and Romain Amalfitano among those vying for starts.
Steve Harper is set to start in goal, and Mike Williamson and Ryan Taylor are also expected to feature.
Teenage striker Adam Campbell – who netted a hat-trick against Spurs in the season-opening U21 Professional Development League on Saturday – is also in the squad to gain valuable experience.
“We’ll go there having to make enforced changes,” said Pardew. “That’s a shame, as we were hoping to give some of our younger players a chance.
“But we’re still buoyed by the Spurs result and we have to get on with it. One or two new players will be involved.”
Harper is relishing the chance of a first competitive appearance since April last year.
The 37-year-old, who has played 17 European ties for Newcastle, said: “Hopefully, we’ll come through the qualifier.
“We sampled what European football will be like playing against the likes of Fenerbahce and Monaco (in pre-season).
“Some of the lads hadn’t experienced what it’s like to play teams who keep the ball and foreign referees are a little bit different.
“It’s about getting used to the routine of night games away from home.”
The prize for the winner of the two-legged tie – the return is at the Sports Direct Arena next Thursday – is a place in the Europa League’s group stage, and Pardew admits he would settle for a draw at the Peristeri Stadium.
“We go there and we’d probably be happy to get a draw, but maybe we can get a win,” added Pardew.
“That’s the challenge. If we could get a win, it would make life a lot easier.”
Meanwhile, Vurnon Anita is already convinced he made the right move in signing for Newcastle.
Midfielder Anita came off the bench to make his debut in the 2-1 win over Tottenham last weekend and could make his full bow tomorrow.
Fellow Dutchman Tim Krul revealed: “Vurnon said straight away when he walked off the pitch he already felt he made a great decision looking at the fans and the full stadium.
“I’ve played with him for many, many years – I think he’ll be the missing link, especially in Europe.
“We’ll play more from the back, and he’ll be a fantastic addition.”