DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS?
While Newcastle’s Gulf state derby against PSG is not strictly a must-win game for the Premier League side, it is certainly must-not-lose to maintain hopes of progressing to the Big Cup knockout stages. Having smashed their French hosts 4-1 in the corresponding fixture at St James’ Park, Newcastle fans would have every right to feel confident in Paris if their squad wasn’t so decimated by injuries and suspensions. The list of absentees is so long that celebrity Toon fans Ant and Dec would almost certainly get a game if they weren’t making an even bigger show of themselves in Australia helping to rehabilitate the reputation of a despicable, dinghy-obsessed demagogue.
Although Newcastle have a whopping 12 senior players unavailable, Howe might not have to resort to calling up Sting, Sam Fender and Jimmy Nail, as only three of that dozen – Sandro Tonali, Dan Burn and Sean Longstaff – are among their current crop of lame, halt or banned that started in the team that battered PSG last time out. Much like when they humbled Chelsea, Newcastle’s starting XI will be more than strong enough but it’s on the bench where they’ll be conspicuously light on experience but not, if the weekend was anything to go by, cherubic academy graduates and gloved up substitute goalkeepers.
It is here Newcastle’s shortage of experienced personnel could cost them, considering how much effort Howe’s side were forced to expend against Chelsea only three days ago. “If you’ve seen the last match Newcastle played, yes, physically, it’s really incredible,” gasped PSG manager Luis Enrique. “They’re very strong, they’re able to press hard and very high, there’s so much intensity. Six players are putting so much pressure, they can pressure like eight players at the same time and this intensity and pressure in their game is something that we need to be prepared for.” Asked if this was a defining moment in Newcastle’s campaign and whether or not they were going to give it everything, Howe was unequivocal. “This is a defining moment in our campaign and we are going to give it everything,” he said in his pre-match press pow-wow. “We are going to need to be as good as we know we can be. The motivation couldn’t be bigger. It’s imperative we don’t lose. Fear of failure is a major motivation in my career. Losing doesn’t sit comfortably with me and that applies to this match.”
In Paris to tick off the latest mini-break destination on their Big Cup bingo cards, some travelling Newcastle fans were subjected to an unprovoked attack by a gang of PSG ultras as they got their drink on in a Boulogne-Billancourt watering hole, although the flare-up is reported to have been brief and no serious injuries were reported. “A group of around 30 PSG fans turned up, stood outside, threw a flare and chairs etc at the windows and doors,” reported a Newcastle United Supporters’ Club spokesperson. “Nobody was majorly hurt and then they left. The advice is for everyone to stick together and look after each other.” In the face of a potential onslaught from Kolo Muani, Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé, it is advice Newcastle’s makeshift back-four might also do well to heed.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Sending him to the screen for one and not to the other, not advising him there is a headbutt or that Tim Ream should receive a red card. What is the point in VAR? I’ve had a real grown-up conversation in there with [the referee], I’m trying to remain calm. I’m not angry with anybody. I’m not in there abusing people. It’s literally a conversation around, ‘Come on, guys, it’s six, seven points now that have gone against us, I’m managing a big football club here, and the difference that you’re making to my reputation, to the club’s progression up the league, to people’s livelihoods is huge.’ Maybe tonight has finally turned me against VAR” – in a series called Gary O’Neil v VAR (part XXXVI), we discover that only now has the Wolves manager – whose team suffered a VAR-assisted last-gasp 3-2 defeat at Fulham – turned against technology. He’ll doubtlessly be delighted to know that Ifab is now considering getting the curtain-twitchers involved in corners and free-kicks, too.
FOOTBALL DAILY LETTERS
Hey. Hey. Hey. Let’s take it easy on one of my all-time faves, the Gliding Gladiator, Dimitar Berbatov (yesterday’s Fun and Games in South America Dept, full email edition). To my recollection Berba never had any responsibility to track back, God forbid. His responsibility was to score goals which I thought he did with admirable panache” – Guy Robert.
Generally, I’m all for the use of AI and, quite frankly, in my office I’d settle for any sort of intelligence, artificial or natural. However, it was extremely disappointing to see the once-great Sports illustrated being accused of using AI to generate articles and generate fake profiles for authors while also being too lazy to even check whether they even made any sense afterwards. Thankfully, the quality of the articles, with such classics as ‘volleyball can be a little tricky to get into, especially without an actual ball to practice with’, is so poor that even Football Daily wouldn’t lower itself to using it. My office on the other hand” – Noble Francis [you say that … – Football Daily Ed].
Petr Cech posing for a photo in ‘a graveyard in Surrey’ you say (yesterday’s Memory Lane, full email edition)? Or is it a graveyard next to Baron’s Court tube station?” – Russell Packford (and 1,056 other west Londoners).
Sergio Ramos has wrongly been accused of receiving his 29th red card. It is the 30th when you count the un-awarded one for his judo tackle on Mohamed Salah in the Big Cup final” – Krishna Moorthy (and no other readers struggling to move on from 2018).
In this age of Premier League-centric largesse, let’s spare a thought for the rest of a pyramid which is the envy of the world. I present you Wealdstone’s 98th-minute winner against our despised rivals Barnet on Saturday which provoked chaotic scenes among the 2,000 home fans, emptied the technical area and inflicted a fourth consecutive defeat on the club that [Snip – Football Daily Lawyers] our ground. Wealdstone are part-time, Barnet are full-time. Delicious doesn’t begin to describe the rapture at the final whistle” – Neale Harvey.
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