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Newcastle faces 'big test' of resilience following Champions League exit, Howe says

Newcastle Joelinton - The Canadian Press

NEWCASTLE, England (AP) — Eddie Howe says Newcastle was “miles ahead of schedule” in reaching the Champions League but the manager expressed confidence Friday of another top-four finish if they can get their season back on track.

Newcastle limps into Saturday's match against Fulham looking to end a two-game skid in the Premier League. It comes three days after being dumped out of the Champions League in a 2-1 loss to AC Milan at St. James' Park.

“It’s going to be a big test of our ability to respond — our resilience,” Howe said Friday at a news conference. “There will be a narrative that will be negative, and we have to override that. That can become more negative if you don’t respond in the right way.”

The injury-plagued team is in seventh place approaching the halfway mark of the season. Key right-back Kieran Tripper will serve a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation, and Anthony Gordon's availability was in question after the winger was subbed off Wednesday with an apparent hamstring injury.

They face a Fulham team that has recorded back-to-back 5-0 victories and that has won three of its past four games. The London team has won only once away from Craven Cottage this campaign, though, in the season opener at Everton.

Under its wealthy ownership — Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund bought the club in 2021 — Newcastle finished fourth last season. The Magpies are currently seven points back of that spot.

“We can," Howe said when asked about a repeat top-four finish, "but we’re going to need to have a really good run of form. We’ve got every chance. The points are available for us. ... There's challenges for us to respond to, but I've always backed the group to be able to do that."

After a League Cup quarterfinal match at Chelsea on Tuesday, Newcastle plays at Luton and hosts Nottingham Forest before the end of the calendar year.

The manager acknowledged their top-four finish last season was a surprise.

“If you’re looking at it analytically the players did incredibly well last year to finish where we did. It was miles ahead of schedule because preseason no one was talking about top-four, Champions League football,” Howe said.

Newcastle needed just a draw Wednesday to at least stay in European competition. Instead, Milan will move down to the the Europa League playoffs courtesy of a third-place finish in the group.

There was “some pain and anguish” in the locker room, Howe said.

“You have to park it very quickly because if you don’t and you keep that solemn face for days it’s going to affect your next performance.”


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