Newcastle boss Eddie Howe will head into the Champions League showdown with AC Milan desperate to continue a journey which has captivated him.
Howe, who turned 46 on Wednesday, did so still ruminating on the controversial 1-1 draw at Paris St Germain on Tuesday evening, which left the Magpies needing to beat the Serie A giants at St James’ Park on December 13 and hope the French champions do not win at Borussia Dortmund if they are to emerge from Group F.
Newcastle had come within a few minutes of stoppage-time of a famous victory at the Parc des Princes when a questionable handball decision against Tino Livramento handed Kylian Mbappe the chance to snatch a point, and it was one he took with some aplomb.
However, asked afterwards how much he had enjoyed the competition to date and how keen he was to extend that adventure, Howe said: “I’ve loved every second of it and I’m desperate to stay in it.
“We have been thrown in at the deep end against high-class opposition, some great stadiums and brilliant atmospheres and we are desperate to stay in the competition, and to show a better version of ourselves. We’d love the opportunity to do it.”
Should the Magpies beat Milan, they would have eight points and that would mean PSG, who already have seven, would have to win in Germany against the already-qualified Bundesliga side as the Premier League club would have the better of the head-to-head if they finished level.
Howe was angry with the penalty decision, which he described as “poor”, but his sense of injustice masked a belief that there could be another twist to come.
He said: “I think we have to look that we’re still in the competition. The first thing to do is look at that because it could have been different tonight, so that game now is going to take on huge significance for lots of different reasons.
“We’re back at home and we’re excited about the game when it comes around, so they’re huge positives for us. That’s why I don’t think we should lose sight of that despite the disappointing ending.”
The Magpies travelled to Paris with a raft of key players still injured and so little experience on the bench that the team which started also finished, some of them clearly running on fumes.
However, Howe was proud of the resilience they showed as PSG piled on the pressure, with goalkeeper Nick Pope making a series of fine saves while the men in front of him defended for dear life until fate intervened.
Their manager, who now faces the task of lifting the team for Saturday’s league clash with Manchester United at St James’, paid tribute to the spirit within the camp, which was exemplified in the face of a French onslaught.
He said: “We’ve shown that despite the huge number of players – quality players – not being here, the group has stepped up and given more.
“We’ve shown that the spirit and togetherness and the willingness to fight for each other is as good as I’ve ever seen it at any football club since I’ve been involved in the game, and we’re very proud to represent Newcastle, as I’ve said many times before, but especially on the European stage.
“Hopefully we can give them a reason for everyone to be proud of us back in Newcastle.”
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