Newcastle face ‘defining’ Champions League clash as Eddie Howe demands team ‘play on the edge’

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Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe acknowledged his team are below their own expectations in their Champions League group this term and said it was “imperative” they managed to avoid defeat ahead of a trip to Paris Saint-Germain.

The Magpies sit bottom of a tight Group F, with four points accumulated putting them behind Borussia Dortmund (seven), PSG (six) and AC Milan (five).

Howe’s team must take a minimum of four points from their remaining two matches, realistically, though even that might not be enough depending on points elsewhere – but a smashing 4-1 victory over Chelsea at the weekend has raised spirits in the camp and the boss wants his team to harness the emotions and energy seen at St. James’ Park this season for this match on away soil.

“The mood of the group is really good, especially after the weekend. It was a pivotal moment, we could have been feeling sorry for ourselves [due to injury absences] but the lads did incredibly well to blank that out and perform,” Howe told media ahead of the PSG match.

“It’s good to have the mixture of emotions. We need to be playing on the edge, we’re at our best when they have that different emotion running through so I expect that from the players tomorrow. We need every ounce of motivation and energy to get a result. This is our defining moment in the Champions League campaign, we’re well aware of where we sit in the group.

“We’re not in a strong position or where we wanted to be but it’s imperative we don’t lose.”

While Newcastle did thrash PSG in the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign, their home form – eight wins from ten in all competitions – is markedly different to their travels, where they’ve won just twice from nine, and only once in either Premier League or Champions League.

PSG, on the other hand, while desperately disappointing at St. James’ Park, have won seven of their eight fixtures since – including a 5-2 thrashing of rivals Monaco on Friday night. Howe pointed out the French side present a formidable threat but expects a depleted Newcastle to play their own game regardless – though two midfielders are definitely out.

“Since we played them they’ve scored goals for fun. We’ll do our best defensively, our resilience has been good and we’ll need to be as good as we can.

“Not too much change. We’re pretty much as we were but with a few [youth] absentees who can’t play in the Champions League. Joe Willock is seeing a specialist tomorrow, Sean Longstaff hasn’t travelled. There’ll be tweaks around positions but the fundamentals of how we play can never change.”

Elsewhere, the manager had praise for youngster Lewis Miley and in-form forward Anthony Gordon.

“There’s every chance [Miley] will be involved again. I think he’s ready – the thing I loved was that it’s as if he hasn’t done anything, it was just any other game. That’s how he’ll need to approach this game, sometimes the more you build a game up the worse your performance can be.

“Anthony has been in great form for us. We knew he had ability but the big thing is he’s been adding goals. He scored a brilliant one when moving to the striker role and his cross was the key moment to secure us three points. We really encourage him to keep adding those contributions to us.”

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