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Newcastle squad ‘exposed’ in Champions League exit – Howe

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said his side’s lack of strength in depth was exposed after bowing out of the Champions League in the group stage on Wednesday.

A 2-1 home defeat by AC Milan sealed the Magpies’ fate as they even missed out on dropping into the Europa League next year.

Newcastle’s first experience of Europe’s elite club competition for 20 years got off to a flying start as they beat Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 at home and drew 0-0 away to Milan.

But they took just one point from their final four games in a devilishly difficult Group F as an injury crisis took its toll.

Victory at St James’ Park was not enough for last season’s semi-finalists Milan to progress to the last 16 as PSG and Borussia Dortmund reached the knockout stage.

Backed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, Newcastle did not splash out as much as expected in the summer transfer window.

And Howe said having depth is the lesson he has learned from a bruising campaign.

“The value of the squad, that’s what exposed us,” Howe told TNT Sports.

“We haven’t had the ability to utilise the squad we created, that’s been a big frustration for us.

“We’ve gone into games with almost one hand behind our back, very limited, and that hasn’t helped our situation.”

Howe had been forced to name the same 10 outfield players for each of Newcastle’s previous five games in all competitions due to a series of injuries and Sandro Tonali’s 10-month ban for betting offences.

He made just one change to his starting line-up against Milan, but had to withdraw two of his star performers this season in Kieran Trippier and Anthony Gordon after the break as they tired.

Joelinton had fired Newcastle into a first-half lead, but goals from Rafael Leao and Samuel Chukwueze condemned Howe’s men to a third consecutive defeat.

“We’ve got a very stretched squad, those players have gone again and again and I couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve given me physically and mentally,” added Howe.

“We’ve left it all out on the pitch. I don’t think we can have any regrets, but of course we will learn from it and absorb everything to take it into our Premier League form.”

Fatigue has also been a factor as Newcastle’s form has faltered of late in the Premier League.

They sit seventh in the table, seven points adrift of the top four.

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