Former Liverpool star questions Newcastle United ‘mindset’ ahead of Champions League return

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One former England defender has given his take on Newcastle United ahead of Tuesday night’s Champions League clash with AC Milan.

Former Liverpool star Stephen Warnock believes Eddie Howe will have to ‘disappoint’ some members of his Newcastle United squad in a bid to build on last season’s success.

The Magpies ended a run of three consecutive defeats on Saturday evening when a Callum Wilson penalty was enough to see off Brentford at St James Park and they have now turned their attention towards the visit to AC Milan as United face their first Champions League group stage fixture in two decades.

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Thoughts of meetings with European football’s elite were far from the mind when Howe took charge at St James Park in November 2021 as he inherited a squad languishing in the bottom three of the Premier League and without a win to their name.

A combination of a significant spend in the January transfer window and Howe’s ability to draw serious improvement out of his squad helped the Magpies preserve their Premier League status and lay the foundations for a remarkable progression last season.

After losing just five Premier League fixtures, Howe’s side secured a top four finish and with it came a return to European football’s top table. However, that has placed extra emphasis on the need to rotate the United squad as Howe and his coaching staff deal with an increasingly-hectic fixture list.

Former England left-back Warnock praised the ‘high energy football’ Howe has implemented during his time at St James Park but believes the United boss will have to manage the expectations of his squad throughout a challenging season on Tyneside.

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He told Sky Sports: “One thing we associate with Eddie Howe since he has had this magnificent run and Newcastle have had this great run is a team, the one thing we associate them with is being strong, athletic, pressing from the front, closing down, high energy football.

“That is very difficult to keep up and to maintain that. How do you do that consistently? I think you’ve got to rotate more. I think the players looked jaded towards the end of last season. I think this season again, the mindset has to be we have to do this again, this is going to be a big ask. Plus, you’re throwing in Champions League football in midweek as well.

“That’s going to be an even bigger task with all of the travelling and I think Eddie Howe is learning on the job, this is how we will have to adapt, we have to change things and he has to rotate a little bit more.

“It will be disappointing to some players, but once you start winning games again and once you play your part in those games, it will help the squad.”

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Meanwhile, Spanish referee Jose Sanchez has been appointed to take charge of Tuesday night’s meeting at the San Siro. The 39-year-old officiated two games in last season’s competition after overseeing Eintracht Frankfurt’s 1-0 win at Marseille and Liverpool’s 3-0 victory against Ajax.

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