Newcastle United’s troubling six-man injury list as £40m star’s season struggles continue - five things

Callum Wilson of Newcastle United runs with the ball whilst under pressure from Nico Schlotterbeck of Borussia Dortmund during the UEFA Champions League match between Newcastle United FC and Borussia Dortmund at St. James Park on October 25, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.Callum Wilson of Newcastle United runs with the ball whilst under pressure from Nico Schlotterbeck of Borussia Dortmund during the UEFA Champions League match between Newcastle United FC and Borussia Dortmund at St. James Park on October 25, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Callum Wilson of Newcastle United runs with the ball whilst under pressure from Nico Schlotterbeck of Borussia Dortmund during the UEFA Champions League match between Newcastle United FC and Borussia Dortmund at St. James Park on October 25, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. | Getty Images
Newcastle United suffered their first Champions League defeat, beaten 1-0 by Borussia Dortmund.

A reality check? It certainly feels like one of sorts for Newcastle United.

Although, that must be caveated with the fact, things were never going to easy in the Champions League.

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A draw, a win and a loss against AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund is no mean feat, all told, but given highs of the second round of fixtures, the third is a fair comedown.

How was the game won and lost - and what lessons can be learned? Here’s five talking points from the 1-0 loss on Tyneside.

Opportunity missed - now comes the tough stuff

For Newcastle United, home fixtures, as they always are, were always going to define their progression, or lack of it, in the toughest club competition of all.

An unexpected victory over PSG raised expectations, but a home loss, in which they huffed and puffed, largely, has tempered that unbridled optimism.

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Now comes the tough stuff. Two away games at Dortmund then Paris will really test the Magpies, whose squad is looking more depleted by the week.

In a tough group the finest of margins can be crucial, and a point or two on the road would without doubt make up for this home slip.

Isak loss could be the toughest to take

Callum Wilson of Newcastle United runs with the ball whilst under pressure from Nico Schlotterbeck of Borussia Dortmund during the UEFA Champions League match between Newcastle United FC and Borussia Dortmund at St. James Park on October 25, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.Callum Wilson of Newcastle United runs with the ball whilst under pressure from Nico Schlotterbeck of Borussia Dortmund during the UEFA Champions League match between Newcastle United FC and Borussia Dortmund at St. James Park on October 25, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Callum Wilson of Newcastle United runs with the ball whilst under pressure from Nico Schlotterbeck of Borussia Dortmund during the UEFA Champions League match between Newcastle United FC and Borussia Dortmund at St. James Park on October 25, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. | Getty Images

If Newcastle need to rely on Callum Wilson in a two-game per week sequence, they’re asking for trouble.

So Eddie Howe will no doubt have his fingers and toes crossed for positive news on Alexander Isak, with the seven-goal Swede withdrawn with a groin problem early on.

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They lost something when Isak was withdrawn, mostly because Wilson is a totally different kind of striker. And it took the England international a fair bit of warming up in this encounter to really impact it. He still should have scored with one opportunity put on a plate by Anthony Gordon and hit the bar with a looping header near the death.

Nick Pope back to his best?

You won’t see many better double saves than that one in the opening period, I’m sure. Although, shot-stopping never has been a problem for the huge stopper.

What has been criticised in Pope’s game is his distribution and ability with ball at feet. Against Dortmund he was excellent, both with his feet, moving it swiftly side to side, and with his balls out of hand to Gordon. Two booming throws were launched the full length of a half to the wideman, as Pope showed an urgency which was lacking at times from United.

Made an important stop with his legs in the opening two minutes. Was called into action shortly after as he made an incredible double save to keep Dortmund at bay. Made an important stop with his legs in the opening two minutes. Was called into action shortly after as he made an incredible double save to keep Dortmund at bay.
Made an important stop with his legs in the opening two minutes. Was called into action shortly after as he made an incredible double save to keep Dortmund at bay. | Getty Images

Not a night for Newcastle’s midfield tone setters

While Bruno Guimaraes pulls the strings, Joelinton’s physicality and Sean Longstaff’s relentless running so often set the tone against opposition home and abroad. The three, reunited for the first time of Saturday, again didn’t quite click against a technical Dortmund unit, particularly in the first half, when the real damage was done.

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Joelinton’s season struggles continue, although he hasn’t quite yet been fully fit, while Longstaff didn’t quite hit his usual standards on the night. He’s been outstanding this season, so it’s hard to criticise too much. The level of opposition must also be taken into account.

One in, one out as squad stretches further

Joe Willock of Newcastle United inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Champions League match between Newcastle United FC and Borussia Dortmund at St. James Park on October 25, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)Joe Willock of Newcastle United inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Champions League match between Newcastle United FC and Borussia Dortmund at St. James Park on October 25, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Joe Willock of Newcastle United inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Champions League match between Newcastle United FC and Borussia Dortmund at St. James Park on October 25, 2023 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) | Getty Images

The return of Joe Willock was welcome, but it is impacted immediately with Sandro Tonali’s situation. The midfielder’s ban will hit this injury-strained squad hard.

With Sven Botman out, Jacob Murphy injured, Isak suffering an issue in-game, too, to add to Harvey Barnes, Elliot Anderson & Lewis Miley, things are far from rosey for Howe & Co.

They’re limping through at the moment - and it feels like a long, long way from the January window.

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