Newcastle United have returned to the Champions League, and St. James’ Park will host its first game back in the championship proper since 2002-03 in spectacular manner when Paris Saint-Germain visits.

The Magpies returned to Europe’s top club competition with a journey to Italy, where they drew 0-0 with last season’s semi-finalists AC Milan at the San Siro.

With the help of the Twenty3 Toolbox, we break down Newcastle and PSG’s battle on Tyneside in this edition of Tactics Truck.

United of Newcastle
Newcastle’s two-decade absence from the Champions League has landed them in this season’s ‘Group of Death,’ along with PSG, Milan, and Borussia Dortmund.

Eddie Howe will surely not turn his nose up at a clean sheet and a creditable draw away in Italy to kick-start their European campaign, although the Magpies were made to work hard for their point.

Nick Pope made nine saves – second only to Crvena zvezda’s Omri Glazer in the first round of fixtures – keeping the Rossoneri out despite their xG of 2.11.

Newcastle were also particularly vulnerable to fast breaks in Milan, conceding the most (0.58 xG) from counter-attacks in the competition.

While the Magpies completed five through-balls – only Manchester City completed more – the Rossoneri mostly blunted their forward efforts, limiting Howe’s men to only nine successful attacking actions – the joint-lowest tally in the Champions League.


Newcastle will need to improve in both areas if they are to secure another success against PSG – and the added pressure of a boisterous St. James’ Park may help them do so.



Paris Saint-Germain

PSG began their latest Champions League campaign with a 2-0 home victory over Dortmund, with Kylian Mbappé and Achraf Hakimi scoring in the second half.

However, it was the French team’s defensive ability that stood out as the most impressive aspect of their overall performance.


Like Newcastle, PSG kept a clean sheet; unlike the Magpies, they were in no way fortunate to do so.


They faced only one shot on target, which had a post-shot xG value of only 0.04 – the competition’s second-best record from the first round of matches, after only Real Madrid, who did not permit a single shot on target.


PSG accomplished such consistency with excellent pressing, preventing their opponents from stringing together a single series of 10 or more passes and averaging 5.55 passes per defensive action – both of which are the best figures in the Champions League so far.


Newcastle’s forwards could be in for another unpleasant night if Luis Enrique’s men continue to press relentlessly on Tyneside.


Mbappe v Trippier

Individually, the rivalry between Mbappé and Kieran Trippier might be important.

In addition to scoring the game-winning penalty against Dortmund, the French superstar was relentless with the ball at his feet, attempting 26 aggressive actions and 14 dribbles – more than any other player in the competition.

That Newcastle’s own star man is set to come up directly against PSG’s best player makes for an intriguing contest.

However, while Trippier is no slouch defensively – making a team-high 14 ball recoveries in Italy – his most significant contributions to the team come when he is on the ball.

Against Milan, the 33-year-old right-back ranked top among his team-mates for progressive runs (five), passes received (44) and completed passes (53), forward passes (21), final third passes (seven) and through-balls (two), as well as featuring in the most possessions (42), sequences (52) and sequences ending in the final third (21).

Howe may believe Trippier is the key to victory against PSG because he targets the space behind Mbappé on the flank when the 24-year-old makes his regular excursions forward.

Furthermore, the Englishman is the Magpies’ resident set-piece specialist, and the Premier League club may need to capitalize on dead-ball scenarios against their illustrious opponents.

If Newcastle manages to break through PSG’s defensive line, St. James’ Park will be rocking.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *