After a promising start to their first Champions League campaign in 20 years, drawing away to AC Milan before stunning French giants Paris Saint-Germain with a 4-1 win at St James’ Park, Newcastle United have left a lot to be desired in their two games against Borussia Dortmund.
They lost 1-0 at home to the German Bundesliga side on matchday three of the group stage, before suffering a 2-0 defeat to BVB thanks to goals from Niclas Fullkrug and Julian Brandt, when the Magpies travelled to the iconic Signal Iduna Park last time out.
With just two group games left to play, Newcastle now face an uphill task to qualify for the knockout stages of Europe’s premier club competition.
They face Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes in their penultimate test on November 28, and the French giants are the favourites in the PSG v Newcastle odds — as Kylian Mbappe and company seek revenge for their aforementioned 4-1 thrashing at St James’ Park.
A probable defeat to Luis Enrique’s side would see the Magpies crash out of the competition, regardless of the outcome of their last match against Milan at home. However, a spot in the Europa League could still be up for grabs.
Why, after picking up four points from their first two games, do Newcastle find themselves on the cusp of elimination from the Champions League though? Well, it’s hard to pinpoint it exactly, as there are several different reasons for what could turn out to be a disappointing campaign.
One of the major things is the act of balancing the Champions League, or lack thereof, on top of everything else.
There’s a sense that Howe has put more of a focus on the Premier League, but a big part of that is another factor of Newcastle’s struggles as well — a long list of injuries.
The Magpies are having to balance a very busy schedule with a real lack of players due to an extensive list of absentees.
Newcastle were without 11 first-team players for their recent trip to Bournemouth, which ultimately ended in defeat on the south coast— and Kieran Trippier getting into a heated altercation with the dedicated fans who made the almost 600-mile round trip.
Before that, Howe was only able to name a bench of eight players for the trip to Borussia Dortmund — and just six of those were outfield players.
Newcastle are running on fumes, and they look tired both physically and mentally. That was apparent when a visibly knackered Trippier confronted the Newcastle fans following that aforementioned Bournemouth clash.
Going back to our first point, and with all things considered, who can blame Howe for perhaps targeting the Premier League over the Champions League at this stage?
Newcastle aren’t in a position where they should be challenging for the European Cup just yet, but they should be able to compete for a place in the top four.
With their injuries and busy schedule, the Magpies are becoming in danger of missing out on a Champions League spot come the end of the season — and they are becoming less favourable to do so with those who bet on football, which is a big concern.
Regardless, Howe has hopefully used the recent international break to work out how he can approach what is going to be a crucial period of the season for Newcastle.