Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe has insisted his side’s delayed arrival in Italy will not affect their Champions League chances.

The club had been given special dispensation to train in Newcastle rather than the San Siro on Monday but got held up as they tried to leave Tyneside as stormy weather caused havoc in Milan.

However, speaking at a press conference which finally got underway at around 9pm local time two hours after it had been scheduled, Howe was adamant preparations for a tough opening encounter with AC Milan would not be hampered as a result.

“It’s just part and parcel of the job that we do,” he said. “It’s not out of the normal that that can happen. This was a weather problem, but we’ve been in similar situations.

“It’s something we’re used to, although it’s a slightly later arrival time than we would have liked for the players. It’s no big deal though.”
Howe and his players were due to leave Tyneside at around 2:30pm, but eventually took off closer to 5pm and, as the media gathered at the stadium to await the 45-year-old and former Milan midfielder Sandro Tonali, a plane-tracking app suggested they were still somewhere above France.

The late arrival meant Newcastle players would not have an opportunity to walk around the home team’s pitch the day before the game, as is customary for European fixtures, but Howe believes it will not have an impact on his side.


“I think in my opinion that’s probably overrated,” he said when asked about a pitch walk. “Some would have been here before, some wouldn’t. It’s a pitch.


“Yes every player will probably feel slightly different but once they’re on it we hope they will perform.”
The match on Tuesday evening will be the first time Newcastle have featured in the competition for two decades and will be a first for Howe too. The Magpies manager has never even attended a Champions League game before with the match at the San Siro his first ever taste of European football’s premier competition in person.

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“I’ve never attended one. I’ve always been too busy working to take one in,” Howe explained. “But it’s not something I’ve given any thought to. It’s a game of football.


“Yes, it will be a very proud moment for me. I think it will be a very proud moment for everyone connected with Newcastle to be back in the Champions League after a long period away.


“But it is a game of football and I think that’s just how we have to approach it. Yes, it’s a special game and we have to be at our best. There are slight differences in terms of where we’ve travelled, but the game will be the same and it will be a very difficult one.”


In contrast to Newcastle, Milan are chiselled veterans of the competition. The club are second only to Real Madrid in terms of all-time wins, lifting the trophy on seven occasions, and reached the semi-finals of the tournament last year before losing to city rivals Inter.


However, their preparations for the encounter with Newcastle have been less than ideal, falling to a humiliating 5-1 defeat at the hands of the same opposition.
Much of the focus during the 90 minutes on Tuesday evening will be on Newcastle midfielder Tonali as he returns to face his former side just months after leaving to join the Magpies.

The Italian is relishing the challenge but admits he will feel a range of emotions as he makes his return.


“It will be the most thrilling feeling to come out into the stadium packed with people again,” he said. “They let me live my dream here at AC Milan, but now I come back as a rival. I will have a lot of feelings tomorrow.


“Everything happened so fast with the transfer, I was overwhelmed at first, but I have come across a wonderful team, wonderful staff and play for people who love football. The people of Newcastle will help anyone.”

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