Keith Downie gives the lowdown on Newcastle's first Champions League since March 2003 against AC Milan at the San Siro on Tuesday; follow build-up and live updates from 4.15pm on Sky Sports digital platforms
By Keith Downie, Sky Sports News
Tuesday 19 September 2023 08:33, UK
Being back in the Champions League means absolutely everything to Newcastle fans. They'd been starved under the previous owner Mike Ashley. They just existed under his stewardship, they had no opportunity to get back to Europe's top table.
Yes, they had that one season in the Europa League under Alan Pardew back in 2013 but that was a one-off — and it was seen by the hierarchy as something they didn't want.
It was seen as a distraction from the league, and there was a feeling among supporters that all Ashley wanted was for them to stay in the Premier League and pick up the prize money every year.
It feels good for the fans to be back, they're back at the top table and competing with some of the top clubs, and giving them a day out. The group includes some brilliant trips, Milan then Dortmund and Paris. It's some great opportunities to watch the club play on the European stage with a real hope they can get through the group.
When the draw was made, it looked like a group of death — it looked difficult on paper, but all three squads are weaker than in previous years. PSG haven't got Neymar or Lionel Messi, Dortmund haven't got Jude Bellingham, Milan haven't got Sandro Tonali.
I would say Newcastle are as good as, if not better, than Milan, but it's about how they cope with the San Siro and the home fans, who as we all know are very volatile and can make things very difficult for away fans.
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