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Watch: Howe embracing mixture of styles as Newcastle return home to host Sela Cup

Magpies to face Fiorentina, Villarreal in VisitMalta tournament

While many pre-season tournaments involving European clubs are moving to the US and Asia, accommodating far-away markets and exposing giants in the sport to new areas of support, the inaugural edition of the VisitMalta Sela Cup will bring back teams to Europe for a weekend of non-stop football ahead of the new season.

Held at Newcastle’s St James’ Park, the two-day event brings together Premier League side hosts Newcastle United, Serie A’s Fiorentina, La Liga’s Villarreal and French Ligue 1 team Nice.

Speaking to a press conference ahead of their games against Fiorentina (Saturday) and Villarreal (Sunday), Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said he was happy to face opposition with different styles.

“I think it will be tough opposition with Fiorentina in the final of a European Cup, well-based as well in Serie A,” Howe told the Times of Malta.

“Both are good teams and that’s what we wanted in our games – we wanted some determination in our pre-season fixtures with the purpose of preparing ourselves for the tough start we have.”

“I’m looking forward to both games and I’ll know they’ll be slightly different styles but I think that the general theme will be quite similar.”

Asked about their recent US tour, Howe believes it is beneficial to make time for fans in other countries than the UK.

“Ideally you have a mixture,” he said. “We were more than happy to go to America for the Premier League series. We’ve enjoyed our experience and got to see the support Newcastle has in America whether that’s Newcastle fans travelling or Americans adopting us as their club.

“It was great to go there and see. There’s certainly a lot of passion for football now and I think that’s growing – it’s great to help that grow. But it’s important that we’re here, for our own supporters and people who can’t travel as far. So, I think it should be a really good two days.”

This weekend will be local fans’ first opportunity to see new signings Sandro Tonali, brought on from Milan, and Harvey Barnes who joined from newly-relegated side Leicester.

Speaking about how these signings have integrated, Howe said both have fit in well with the team so far and that it would be ‘vital’ for them to experience St James’ Park just weeks away from the start of the new Premier League season, one in which the former Burnley and Bournemouth manager claims his side ‘will have a target on their backs’.

“They’re settling in really well,” Howe said.

“Both are very different – Sandro (Tonali) has come from Italy and that is a big change for him but I think he’s adapted to his surroundings really well. He’s got good friendships within the squad already. I think the level of his play in training and games has been very high and he’s a really good character and I’m seeing really good signs from him.

“Harvey (Barnes) has had a slightly easier transition but he was at Leicester from a very young age so it would have been a big thing for him to move. However, he’s already shown he could be a big player, already scoring goals so I’m really pleased.

“I think it is vitally important and I’m sure that they’re excited to play in front of Newcastle supporters. I think that is one of the selling points for us to give to players and try and entice them to come.

“St James’ Park is probably number one:  the environment, the support, the noise. So they’re going to get their first taste, hopefully it’ll be a good experience for both.”

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