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Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe has confirmed that five key stars will be absent for his side’s clash with Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night. The Magpies are gearing up for their first Champions League tie at St James’ Park in 20 years, having taken a point from AC Milan’s San Siro in their group stage opener.
It’ll be all hands on deck for Howe and co when the star-studded Ligue 1 champions visit Tyneside this week. The likes of Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Achraf Hakimi will be looking to do damage after seeing off Borussia Dortmund on matchday one.
But Newcastle won’t have the luxury of fielding their best XI, with injury issues wreaking havoc on Howe’s squad. The former Bournemouth boss confirmed during a press conference on Tuesday that three doubts are unlikely to recover in time.
“Callum Wilson won’t make it tomorrow,” he said. “He’s close, but as it stands he won’t make it. Joelinton is in a similar position. Sven [Botman] is also out. He won’t play.”
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The trio named by Howe are joined by long-term absentees Harvey Barnes and Joe Willock, who would also be in with a chance of starting if firing on all cylinders. It would be a bitter blow for supporters if none of the five see game time in the Toon’s home Champions League return.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, as the boss confirmed that summer signing Sandro Tonali is in line to feature. The Italian went all the way to the Champions League semi-finals last season with AC Milan.
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None of the five players in danger of missing Wednesday’s heavyweight clash started the Premier League win over Burnley last time out. Howe will hope that a slightly weakened XI can replicate that performance, with goals from Miguel Almiron and Alexander Isak downing the Clarets.
The Magpies boss addressed the elephant in the room ahead of PSG’s visit to the north-east, with talk naturally turning to how his side can keep megastar Kylian Mbappe under wraps.
“It’s very difficult to combat him,” Howe admitted. “Our defensive record has been strong, our team performance has been strong. It’s never down to one player. I don’t believe in man-marking. We need to do well in our units, nullify the space and hopefully keep the best player in the world quiet.
“Part of our challenge is to deliver what we need to deliver in terms of our off the ball plan. We need to get the balance right. We have to be perfect going into the game. Our last run of games, we produced a really good off the ball performance.”
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