PARIS: With Newcastle United’s Champions League hopes hanging by a thread, boss Eddie Howe said defeat is not an option when they face Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
Should Newcastle leave Parc des Princes empty-handed, they will be out of the competition. A draw might keep some faint hope alive, depending on the outcome of AC Milan’s game against Borussia Dortmund. A win, however, would revive the campaign after two disappointing defeats by Dortmund on the bounce.
Howe is hoping his injury-depleted squad can conjure up some more European magic, just like they did with their 4-1 victory over the Parisians at St. James’ Park in October, and in the process create a defining moment for the club.
“It is good to have a mixture of emotions going into the match,” he said. “I think we need to play on the edge; that’s when we are at our best. Every team is at their best when they have that emotion running through them. I expect that from the players.
“We are going to need every ounce of motivation and energy to get a result. This is a defining moment in our Champions League campaign; we are well aware of where we sit in the group and what can happen tomorrow, so we are going to give it everything.
“It is difficult to predict football matches and permutations. We try not to lose energy doing that. We are going to try to prepare for this game and then worry about Milan afterwards. We are certainly not in a strong position. We are not where we wanted to be but we are where we are. We need to focus on this game. It is imperative we don’t lose.”
In their four Champions League games to date, the Magpies have managed to score only four goals, all of which came against Luis Enrique’s side last month. The other three matches were disappointing, particularly away from home, where they struggled to impose themselves in the San Siro and at Signal Iduna Park.
In an attempt to improve fortunes on the road, Howe has changed what has been the usual pre-match routine of training at home before away games and brought his players to train at the Parc des Princes.
Howe said the reason was a “change of feel, just a different routine. You never know how these things affect you or how you perform. Results you can never guarantee, but we are looking for an improved performance from our last two away games — that’s why we have done what we have.”
He added: “Some players might look at that and feel they might need or want it. For us, it gave us more recovery time. Gave the players a little bit longer with their families this morning and allowed us to travel a little bit later. It was quite important for us, with the schedule, to maybe pinch a little bit more time with their families before they leave.
“The fear of failure is a motivating factor for me. The thought of losing doesn’t sit comfortably with me (in) any game or competition. Everything, to me, is geared toward avoiding that feeling of losing and the adulation of winning. Of course, that applies to this game; it is not a bigger motivation, as I am always motivated.
“The motivation and hunger couldn’t be any bigger for us. There is a real motivation to create an incredible season for ourselves and we can still do that in this competition.”
Another change after the Champions League flop in Germany has been the introduction of Lewis Miley in midfield.
The 17-year-old was asked to fill the considerable boots of suspended Sandro Tonali, in the absence of injured Sean Longstaff, and he was one of the stand-out performers in the 4-1 victory over Chelsea at the weekend. Howe is backing the teenager to deal with the pressure of a big European occasion if handed the chance.
“There is every chance he will be involved,” Howe said. “He is ready. The thing I loved about him after the game is it was as if he hadn’t done anything — he was just the same old Lewis. It was just another game for him.
“Sometimes the more you build up a game, the worse your performance can be. He has got a great temperament for these occasions.”
A lot of the talk internationally in the build-up to Tuesday’s game has been about the form of PSG’s Kylian Mbappe, but it is a Newcastle man, recently overlooked for an England call-up, who has been grabbing the headlines in the UK.
“Anthony Gordon has been great for us,” said Howe. “He has been in great form for us. We knew when we signed him we were getting a player of huge potential and ability, pace, technical ability. The big thing for him is he’s been adding goals and assists.
“You look at his last game, he scored a brilliant goal when moving to the striker role, and his cross for Jamaal Lascelles’ goal was probably the key moment in getting us three points. His work off the ball has always been at a really high level throughout his time here but we keep encouraging him to add the valuable goal contributions.
“He is a unique player. He has played games and been robust for us. That is something we are putting more and more focus on, players who can continue to play every two or three days — that is a skill in itself. He has done really well for us because of the output he gives the team. It is extremely high every week but he still manages to recover and play again.
“He is on the edge. A fierce competitor. I am delighted with his progress; he has become a massive player for us.”