Champions League Preview: Newcastle welcome PSG megastars to Tyneside
Written by Joshua Nichol on 4th October 2023
Newcastle United will welcome Paris Saint-Germain to St James’ Park tonight in a clash that sees Champions League football return to Tyneside for the first time in 20 years.
A drone light display lit up the skies above the city-centre stadium earlier this week, part of which spelt out the phrase “we’re back” across the Geordie night sky.
It is a phrase that head coach Eddie Howe has embraced in the run-up to the Champions League showdown.
He told reporters: “It will be a really great moment for the club as a whole.
“To be back in the Champions League, at home, one of those magical nights in our stadium – I’m really looking forward to it.”
It will be an evening of emotions for PSG head coach Luis Enrique who described Newcastle as “the team from pot four that nobody wanted [to be drawn against].”
The former Barcelona player and manager moved to the Catalan club under the tenure of Sir Bobby Robson.
Enrique posted a selfie on X yesterday, posing with a bust of Robson at St James’ Park.
Sir Bobby Robson… great memories! Thank you! pic.twitter.com/78u5tootWr
— LUISENRIQUE (@LUISENRIQUE21) October 3, 2023
A Fan’s Eye View
Newcastle fan Andrew Nealen, 26, thinks the Magpies’ “intensity” will see them find a victory against the French champions.
“I think our intensity will have a lot to say about the way this game goes, PSG are a team known for their head loss so hoping for a repeat of the final vs Bayern Munich in 2020.
“I’m going 2-1 Newcastle win.”
Ethan James, a podcast producer and Newcastle fan, has predicted PSG might “smell blood” with Newcastle’s defensive injuries.
He told Spark: “PSG have made a rocky start to the season so there’s the potential for Newcastle to get a positive result.
“However, the absence of Sven Botman could mean PSG and Kylian Mbappe smell blood. I’ll go with a 2-2 draw prediction.”
How the clubs have fared
Eddie Howe’s side come into the game on the back of five straight clean sheets including a hard-fought 0-0 draw at the San Siro against AC Milan. In that period, Newcastle have scored 12 goals; most notably a record-breaking 8-0 win away to Sheffield United in which eight different players scored.
PSG have slipped to fifth in France’s Ligue 1 following a 0-0 draw with bottom-half Clermont Foot at the weekend. That result means that PSG have only won one of their last three league games, a 4-0 demolition of Marseille.
Who won’t be playing?
Both teams have faced injury problems in the weeks leading to this match.
Most notably for the visitors, Kylian Mbappe was initially feared to be a doubt for the fixture after only playing 31 minutes against Marseille. However, the talismanic Frenchman is in PSG’s squad and is expected to play.
Defenders Nuno Mendes and Presnel Kimpembe, along with midfielder Lee Kang-In and forward Marco Asensio, do not feature in PSG’s travelling squad to Newcastle.
Newcastle’s main injury worries come in the form of centre-back Sven Botman and forward Callum Wilson who are both described as “close” to fitness by Howe.
Meanwhile Italian midfielder Sandro Tonali is “fine” according to Howe despite reports in the week that he had not trained with the squad.
A tale of two state funds
While the romance of the tie cannot be overstated and Newcastle fans look forward to their first home Champions League match in two decades, the fact remains that both clubs are owned by Middle East state investment funds in countries with alleged poor records on human rights.
PSG’s owners Qatar Sports Investments are a subsidiary of Qatar Investment Authority, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.
Newcastle’s ownership has been scrutinised widely since the takeover by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund in 2021.
This match will provide a spectacle for fans, but may also serve as a reminder to many about the state of modern football which is increasingly dominated by finance.
Where can I watch?
The match kicks off at 8pm and is being televised on TNT Sports in the UK.
Coverage begins on TNT Sports 2 at 7pm.