Eddie Howe urged Newcastle players to believe they can progress in the Champions League after they were drawn in a daunting group with Paris Saint Germain, AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund.
Newcastle have been thrown in at the deep end on their return to the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.
French champions PSG, seven-time winners AC Milan and Dortmund all have far greater European pedigree than a Newcastle team only recently revitalised by Howe’s astute management and the influx of cash provided by their Saudi owners.
Asked on Friday if Newcastle’s players should back themselves against Europe’s elite, Howe said: “You have to believe that, yes. I’m not necessarily sure that should be the expectation, but I think we can.
“I’ll let other people talk about what can and can’t happen. All I’m really focused on is what we can do internally, and that’s be our best.”
Stung by last weekend’s Premier League defeat against Liverpool, when Newcastle blew the lead despite playing against 10 men, Howe knows any slip in standards against Champions League opposition will be fatal.
“Going back to the Liverpool game, for a long part of that game, I thought we were really, really good and you can still lose the game against high-quality opposition if you switch off for a couple of moments like we did, so we’re going to be feeling those effects again against elite teams,” he said.
“We’re going to have to be concentrated and at our best right through the game to win.”
Howe and his staff were left with a mix of excitement and trepidation after watching Thursday’s Champions League draw, which handed close-season signing Sandro Tonali a return to his former club Milan.
Asked what their response had been, Howe said with a smile: “There was a bit of silence… for about an hour. No, there was silence for about 10 seconds.
“When the dust settles down, you look at it with pure excitement, really. There’s no negativity from any of us internally towards the draw.
“When you add it all together, I think it’s been a great thing.”
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