Newcastle United face UEFA questions as weather dents Champions League preparation for AC Milan
MILAN: Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe has played down suggestions his side’s Champions League preparations have been dented by the Lombardy weather.
The Magpies’ flight into Milan Malpensa was delayed by two and a half hours, meaning the club’s media duties at the San Siro on Monday had to be pushed back. The delay meant they fell foul of UEFA regulations, and could face sanction for not delivering interviews in a timely fashion on the day before a game.
The players were held on the tarmac at Newcastle Airport for around two hours before forecasts in Milan eased, with the San Siro in particular hit with heavy rainfall, thunder and storms.
While Howe admits it was hardly ideal preparation for the club’s first game in the Champions League for two decades, against AC Milan, he does not believe it will make any difference when the sides get down to action on Tuesday evening.
“It was a weather problem. We were delayed taking off and we were sat on the runway for quite some time. But that is nothing out of the ordinary for us. We do a lot of traveling in the UK and this happens from time to time. Apologies for being late,” Howe said when asked about the delays by gathered press pack.
“It is just part and parcel of the job that we do. It can happen at air traffic control, this was a weather problem. We have been in similar situations before. It has been a long day for us, early start and late finish. So we have just been trying to get our preparation and gameplan right. Trying to make sure we are as organized as we can be. It has been intense as after the Brentford game it was all focus on this one.
“There is no (concern) we are used to it. Slightly later than we would have liked to arrive for the players but it’s not a big deal.”
Newcastle are not yet considered favorites to challenge for Europe’s top club competition title, they’re not even expected to progress from what many are calling this season’s ‘group of death’.
But that hasn’t stopped Howe outlining his own ambitions for the competition.
“We want to do as well as we can,” he said.
“There is no secret, no surprise in my answer. We want to be very competitive first and foremost. We want to give a really good account of ourselves and impose our style of play on the competition, and with that then we hope we get the results that follow.
“The competitive nature of our game has to be there, which it was against Brentford. We went back to basics again and we need to do that again tomorrow night.”
The match heralds the return of Newcastle’s major summer signing, Sandro Tonali, back to the club United prised him from back in July. The player has become a bit of a cult figure on Tyneside already, but was deeply loved in Milan also.
Howe is delighted with what he’s seen from the player, set to return to the side on Tuesday, so far — but knows there’s a whole lot more to come from the 23-year-old.
The head coach, set to make his own Champions League debut, said: “It is very early days for us with Sandro, but he is a hugely impressive character. He is really committed to Newcastle, to living in Newcastle, the language, everything we would have wanted him to do. It is very difficult to transfer from team to team and country to country. Again he has committed to everything we asked him to do.
“He picked up an injury while away on international duty but we don’t think it is too serious and we hope he is fit and available for us tomorrow.”