5 minutes: Murphy hustles down the middle to set Newcastle on the attack. Gordon finds Trippier out on the right. Trippier swings in and looks for Isak. Tomori nods clear.
4 min: Leao cuts in from the left and takes the first shot in anger. Right at Pope and easy for the keeper.
3 minutes: Loftus-Cheek probes down the right and wins a throw-in deep in Newcastle territory. Baby steps for Milan after the 5-1 humiliation at the hands of Inter.
2 minutes: Milan spends the first moments stroking it around the back in our-house-our-rules style.
Newcastle get the ball rolling. “G’Day Scott, hope you are well!” begins a cheerful Chris Paraskevas. “If you had told me a few years ago that Jacob Murphy would start at the San Siro in a Champions League game, I would have asked you what edition of Football Manager you were playing. After a lifetime of waking up at unnatural hours to watch us crash out of the League Cup, it’s great to a̶̶̶c̶̶̶t̶̶̶u̶̶̶̶̶̶l̶̶̶̶̶̶y̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶ ̶t̶̶̶h̶̶̶̶e̶̶̶n ̶̶̶ ̶S̶̶̶̶̶̶̶r̶̶̶o̶̶̶ has the privilege of waking up at 02.00 ‘night on a Wednesday’ for a European evening. What a time to be alive.”
A moment of silence in memory of those who lost their lives in the recent tragedies in Morocco and Libya. “We are with you,” reads a Uefa banner.
The teams are out! AC Milan is not called Rossoneri for now, while Newcastle have their equally famous black and white stripes. We leave after the handshake and a quick burst of the Uefa approved 12″ remix by Zadok the Priest. Meanwhile, Joe Pearson wonders how wise it was for Eddie Howe to refer to “the boys with experience … like Loris Karius?”
Eddie Howe speaks to TNT Sport. “We’re looking forward to it … it’s already loud in the stadium and it’s not even half full so we know it’s going to be a big challenge and hopefully one we can achieve … those lads with experience will be crucial for us … When you work hard to achieve this, we don’t want to waste it … enjoyment for us will come when we play at our best … our supporters deserve this and we want to make them proud.”
It’s been a while, but Newcastle have done this sort of thing before. Here’s some visual evidence of the Toon bursting onto the European stage, including a lightning-in-a-bottle snapshot of Scott Parker’s sheer joy at becoming a 2006 Intertoto Cup winner.
Milan make three changes in the wake of their 5-1 Serie A drubbing of Internazionale. Samu Chukwueze, Fikayo Tomori and Tommaso Pobega take the places of Tijjani Reijnders, Simon Kjær and Christian Pulišić, who all fall to the bench.
Newcastle also make three changes to their starting line-up following their 1-0 away win over Brentford. Sandro Tonali, Jacob Murphy and Alexander Isak move up, while Callum Wilson, Elliot Anderson and Harvey Barnes sit down. Tonali makes what we are contractually obliged to describe as “a dream return to his former club”.
A.C. Milan: Maignan, Calabria, Thiaw, Tomori, Hernandez, Loftus-Cheek, Krunic, Pobega, Chukwueze, Giroud, Leao.
Subs: Adli, Pulisic, Reijnders, Jovic, Okafor, Kjaer, Florenzi, Sportiello, Musah, Mirante, Bartesaghi.
Newcastle United: Pope, Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn, Longstaff, Bruno Guimaraes, Tonali, Murphy, Isaac, Gordon.
Subs: Dummett, Lascelles, Wilson, Targett, Barnes, Karius, Hall, Livramento, Almiron, Anderson, Miley, Harris.
Judging: Jose Maria Sanchez (Spain).
Newcastle United took to European football immediately. After qualifying for the 1968-69 edition of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup by finishing tenth in the old First Division (don’t ask), they seized the opportunity expertly, beating Feyenoord, Sporting Lisbon, Real Zaragoza, Vitoria de Setubal, Rangers and Ujpest to lift continental silverware at the first time of asking. Not bad, especially considering Feyenoord would go on to win the European Cup the following season. Hats off to Bobby Moncur, Frank Clark, Pop Robson et al!
Today’s boys could do with hitting the ground just as well. This is Newcastle’s first outing in the Champions League for 20 years and they are in a group with French champions Paris Saint-Germain, Bundesliga bridesmaids Borussia Dortmund and last year’s semi-finalists seven-time winners Milan. First stop, San Siro. No biggie then. “It’s a game of football and I think that’s just how we have to approach it,” says Eddie Howe, who will no doubt point his players in the direction of Milan’s 5-1 weekend capitulation against arch-rivals Inter, rather than their 4-1 win over Torino in their only game at the San Siro so far this season. Which Milan shows up? The Toon will hope it’s the former, and we’ll start to find out at 17.45 BST. It’s on!