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Howe wants ‘magical European night’ as Newcastle bid to stay in Champions League

Newcastle United face Milan on Wednesday. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP

Eddie Howe is hoping for a “magical European night” as Newcastle try to reach the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday.

Newcastle must win at home to AC Milan and they might have to play without goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, who is an injury doubt.

Even victory over the Italian giants may not be enough for the Magpies to remain in Europe’s elite club competition as they would still drop into the Europa League should Paris Saint-Germain win at Borussia Dortmund.

Defeat, meanwhile, would ensure Newcastle finished bottom of Group F, which would represent a hugely disappointing return from a campaign that featured an impressive 4-1 defeat of Paris Saint-Germain.

Newcastle manager Howe, having guided the northeast side into the Champions League for the first time in 20 years, said he was not ready for his side’s time in the tournament to come to an end.

“I’ve really enjoyed the Champions League,” Howe told a pre-match news conference on Tuesday. “My only frustration is that we have not had the freedom to attack the competition as we would have liked to have done (because of injuries).

“That’s my only feeling that I’m left with that is negative.”

The former Bournemouth boss added: “The tournament itself is special, the places we have been are incredible, the stadiums, the atmospheres and the experiences we have had at home have all been memorable.

“We have one more game to go and we have to make this as memorable as possible.

“My message to the fans is to make this a magical European night. They can only do so much, we have to do our bit to make it that.”

Sandro Tonali’s 10-month suspension and a series of injuries have hampered Newcastle’s progress in the Champions League and they could now be without Dubravka at St James’ Park on Wednesday.

The Slovakia international has started the last two league games in place of Nick Pope, who dislocated his shoulder during the 1-0 win over Manchester United on December 2.

Dubravka, however, did not train on Tuesday with Loris Karius, who suffered an error-strewn display playing for Liverpool in the 2018 Champions League final, on standby.

Howe said it was “slightly unclear” if 34-year-old Dubravka would be fit.

Meanwhile striker Callum Wilson, who returned from injury as a substitute during Sunday’s 4-1 loss away to Tottenham in the Premier League, said there would be no better time than Wednesday to score his first goal in the Champions League.

“I personally believe it hasn’t come yet because it’s waiting for a special moment to happen, and what a story it would be if it’s the winning goal tomorrow night,” he said.

The 31-year-old England forward, who suffered a hamstring injury during the 2-0 defeat at Borussia Dortmund on November 7, added: “We will leave blood, sweat and tears out there. It’s what we do every time we step over the white line and for us as a football club, it’s about having no regrets.”

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