A moment of silence in memory of those who lost their lives in the recent tragedies in Morocco and Libya. “We are together with you,” reads a Uefa banner.
The teams are out! AC Milan aren’t called the rossoneri for nowt, while Newcastle sport their equally famous black and white stripes. We’ll be off after the handshakes and a quick blast of the Uefa-sanctioned 12-inch remix of Zadok the Priest. In the meantime, Joe Pearson wonders just how wise it was for Eddie Howe to reference “the lads with experience … like Loris Karius?”
Eddie Howe speaks to TNT Sport. “We’re looking forward to it … it’s loud in the stadium already and it’s not even half full, so we know it’s going to be a great challenge and hopefully one we can rise to … the lads with experience will be vital for us … when you work hard to achieve this, we don’t want to waste it … enjoyment for us will come with us playing at our best … our supporters deserve this and we want to do them proud.”
It’s been a while, but Newcastle have done this sort of thing before. Here’s some pictorial evidence of the Toon cavorting on the European stage, including a lightning-in-a-bottle snapshot of Scott Parker’s sheer glee at becoming a winner of the 2006 Intertoto Cup.
Milan make three changes in the wake of their 5-1 Serie A stuffing by Internazionale. Samu Chukwueze, Fikayo Tomori and Tommaso Pobega take the places of Tijjani Reijnders, Simon Kjær and Christian Pulišić, who all drop to the bench.
Newcastle also make three changes to their starting line-up, after their garden-variety 1-0 win over Brentford. Sandro Tonali, Jacob Murphy and Alexander Isak step up, while Callum Wilson, Elliot Anderson and Harvey Barnes sit down. Tonali is making what we are contractually obliged to describe as “a dream return to his former club”.
AC Milan: Maignan, Calabria, Thiaw, Tomori, Hernandez, Loftus-Cheek, Krunic, Pobega, Chukwueze, Giroud, Leao.
Subs: Adli, Pulisic, Reijnders, Jovic, Okafor, Kjaer, Florenzi, Sportiello, Musah, Mirante, Bartesaghi.
Newcastle United: Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Longstaff, Bruno Guimaraes, Tonali, Murphy, Isak, Gordon.
Subs: Dummett, Lascelles, Wilson, Targett, Barnes, Karius, Hall, Livramento, Almiron, Anderson, Miley, Harris.
Referee: Jose Maria Sanchez (Spain).
Newcastle United took to European football immediately. Having qualified for the 1968-69 edition of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup by finishing tenth in the old First Division (don’t ask), they seized the opportunity expertly, beating Feyenoord, Sporting Lisbon, Real Zaragoza, Vitoria de Setubal, Rangers and Ujpest to lift continental silverware at the first time of asking. Not bad going, especially considering Feyenoord would win the European Cup the following season. Hats off to Bobby Moncur, Frank Clark, Pop Robson et al!
Today’s lads could do with hitting the ground similarly well. This is Newcastle’s first jaunt in the Champions League for 20 years, and they’re in a group with the French champions Paris Saint-Germain, Bundesliga bridesmaids Borussia Dortmund and last year’s semi-finalists, the seven-time winners Milan. First stop, the San Siro. No biggie, then. “It is a game of football and I think that’s just how we have to approach it,” says Eddie Howe, who will no doubt point his players in the direction of Milan’s 5-1 weekend capitulation at arch-rivals Inter, rather than their 4-1 victory over Torino in their only match so far at San Siro this season. Which Milan will turn up? The Toon will hope it’s the former, and we’ll start finding out at 5.45pm BST. It’s on!