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‘We gave everything to get here’ – Howe desperate for injury-hit Newcastle to stay in Europe

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Eddie Howe is desperate for Newcastle United to have some form of European football to look forward to after Christmas, despite the extra demands it places on his injury-hit squad.

Newcastle host Milan in the final set of UEFA Champions League group-stage fixtures on Wednesday, needing a victory to have any chance of reaching the last 16. If the Magpies win, they need Paris Saint-Germain to fail to beat Borussia Dortmund to leapfrog them in Group F.

Howe’s men have been running on fumes lately, suffering back-to-back Premier League defeats amid an injury crisis leaving the likes of Joe Willock, Harvey Barnes, Sven Botman, Dan Burn, Nick Pope, Jacob Murphy, Matt Targett and Elliot Anderson sidelined.

Newcastle have started the same 10 outfielders in their last five league matches, but Howe will not tolerate the idea that going out of Europe may benefit them in the long run.

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A win on Wednesday would at least guarantee Newcastle the consolation prize of UEFA Europa League football, though Howe’s only aim is to give his team the best chance of a last-16 place.

“We’re desperate to stay in this competition first and foremost and if we can’t, to stay in Europe,” Howe said.

“We worked so hard to get into this competition, we gave everything to get here last year, we don’t want to give it up lightly. We’ll give everything to win this match.

“It would be an incredible achievement if we can do it, but all we can do is look to win the game. It sounds dull but it’s the reality. We have to get the focus right and we can’t be distracted by what’s going on elsewhere.”

Howe did admit he would probably have taken this situation, where three points will guarantee some form of European football, when Newcastle were drawn into their fiercely competitive group.

“To be here with some kind of destiny in our hands – with European football still in our hands – I think we’d have taken that,” Howe said. “We have to think that anyway now.

“We will control what we can control. We respect our opponents, they’re a very good team, as they showed us in Milan [in a goalless draw on matchday one].

“The squad hasn’t progressed in the way that we wanted since then, purely because we’ve not seen many of them!

“It was great to see two players [Callum Wilson and Sean Longstaff] back on Sunday, their performances gave us a lift.

“We’ve not had the freedom to attack this competition as we’d like to have done. That’s the only negative feeling I have.”

Howe could have more selection issues to deal with ahead of Wednesday’s game, with Anthony Gordon and goalkeeper Martin Dubravka missing training on Tuesday.

Asked whether fans should read anything into those absences, Howe said: “Yes and no… you can read whatever you like into it!

“We’re two days after a game, and we’re trying to manage the players. We’ll see who’s fit and available for tomorrow.”

Asked specifically about the availability of Dubravka, who filled in for first-choice goalkeeper Pope for Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Tottenham, Howe simply said: “That is slightly unclear.”

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.

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