Newcastle has been handed a daunting Champions League task after being grouped with European heavyweights PSG, Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan.
The Magpies will face European giants Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan in the first round of this year’s tournament, which starts next month. Reaching the knockout stages now seems like a daunting task for Eddie Howe’s overachievers.
Newcastle knew they were facing a tough Champions League draw after being placed in pot four, which is reserved for the eight weakest teams in terms of UEFA’s coefficient rankings. Yet they would’ve been hoping to avoid some of Europe’s big hitters.
Luck wasn’t on Newcastle’s side, however, as they were placed in Group F. As the news was confirmed, the crowd gasped and the camera panned to three Newcastle employees – media chief Lee Marshall, CEO Darren Eales and sporting director Dan Ashworth.
All three of them looked gutted and couldn’t force a smile, knowing the challenge that awaits Howe’s side. Eales tried to play down the disappointment by making a cheeky dig at Newcastle’s bitter rivals Sunderland.
He said: “You think of AC Milan. In 2003, we had almost 10,000 Geordies over there in the wonderful city of Milan. I don’t think I’ve even seen a Mackem (Sunderland fan) in Milan either! It’s going to be exciting for the Geordies.”
“I think for me, I haven’t really gone there yet mentally, we’ve got so many Premier League games before the competition starts. We need to make sure we’re ready for it because it will be a change and an added dynamic for the season”.
“I’m sure it will test us and stretch us in lots of different ways. But I think ultimately we have to look at it as a huge positive, and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Yet Howe will be feeling the heat after Thursday’s draw, with club chair Yasir Al-Rumayyan demanding success. He told Newcastle’s media team in June: “(We) have the right people in management… We have the right players. To top it all, we have a great fanbase.
“If you have the right people and the will, and the right processes and funds, if you put all these together I think it is a great recipe for success and that is what we are achieving right now… We should have an ambition and aspiration to be number one.”
That’s in direct contrast to Manchester City, with the reigning champions given a significantly easier draw. They will start their defense in Group G where they will face RB Leipzig, Red Star Belgrade and Young Boys.
Arsenal came up short in the battle for the Premier League title. But their second-placed finish under Mikel Arteta secured their Champions League return for the first time since 2016. The Gunners will play Europa League winners Sevilla, PSV and Lens.
Manchester United missed out on Europe’s top competition last time out. However, they are back this time around having finished third in Erik ten Hag’s first season at Old Trafford. The Red Devils, who were drawn out of pot two and placed into Group A along with Bayern Munich, FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray.