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Preview: AC Milan vs Newcastle United – prediction, team news, line-ups

Newcastle United’s first game in the Champions League group stage since 2002/03 takes them to San Siro to meet seven-time European champions AC Milan on Tuesday. 

Despite last season’s heartbreaking semi-final exit, the Rossoneri may find the impending European return a welcoming distraction following a disastrous result in Saturday’s Derby della Madonnina.

Stefano Pioli’s side headed into the mouth-watering derby clash against Inter Milan in high spirits following a three-game winning start to the new Serie A campaign.

However, they finished on the received end of a thumping 5-1 scoreline, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Thuram inspiring the Nerazzurri to their biggest-goal margin win in this fixture since August 2009.

Milan may also see this encounter as an opportunity to settle the score with Newcastle on the field after the Magpies forced them to sell Sandro Tonali in the summer transfer window.

Tonali’s life on Tyneside was off to a flying start as he got on the scoresheet on his debut, opening the scoring in a 5-1 demolition of Aston Villa on the opening Premier League weekend. 

Everything looked rosy from the Italian midfielder’s perspective after his maiden appearance at St James’ Park, but things have soon gone south for Eddie Howe’s team.

A string of three consecutive league defeats saw Newcastle enter September’s international break stranded in the lower reaches and already well behind the top-four pace. 

But Callum Wilson’s goal from the spot in a narrow 1-0 home win over Brentford at the weekend offered the Magpies some respite ahead of their long-awaited Champions League return.

Match Preview

Drawn in the so-called ‘Group of Death’ alongside Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-German, Milan must treat this encounter as a must-win game to increase their chances of making it out of the group stages again. 

Starting this heavyweight Group F at San Siro should be helpful for the Rossoneri, considering they’ve won four of their last five Champions League home matches against foreign adversaries (L1).

Milan’s decent continental form on home turf includes a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in last season’s round of 16, yet that triumph is a drop in the bucket. 

Barring that result, the Italians’ recent European record against English clubs looks rather ominous, with eight defeats in their last 11 clashes (D2) casting doubt on their hopes of bouncing back from a derby loss. 

Newcastle’s home win over Brentford got them back on the rails, but Howe must address his side’s travel sickness and do so on his touchline debut in the Champions League, no less.  

You’d need to go back to April for the Magpies’ last competitive victory outside St James’ Park, with Howe’s side going winless on four consecutive trips since beating Everton 4-1 (D2, L2). 

A lack of defensive solidity on the road could be another setback, as the visitors haven’t kept a clean sheet in competitive away action since a 1-0 triumph at Southampton in the League Cup last January.

If it’s any consolation, Newcastle’s only previous visit to San Siro yielded a 2-2 draw against Inter in March 2003, which remains the only time they’ve shared the spoils in 16 Champions League outings (W8, L7). 

Team News

Apart from long-term absentee Ismael Bennacer, Milan will be without talented defender Pierre Kalulu for this fixture, but Fikayo Tomori’s return to the fold should bolster their defensive resilience. 

Emil Krafth and Joe Willock are still in the Newcastle treatment room, but their principal concern relates to star midfielder Joelinton, who had to skip the Brentford clash with a minor knee problem.

AC Milan potential starting line-up:

(4-3-3): Mike Maignan; Davide Calabria, Malick Thiaw, Fikayo Tomori, Theo Hernandez; Rade Krunic, Tijjani Reijnders, Ruben Loftus-Cheek; Christian Pulisic, Rafael Leao, Olivier Giroud.

Newcastle United potential starting line-up:

(4-3-3): Nick Pope; Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman, Fabian Schar, Dan Burn; Bruno Guimaraes, Sean Longstaff, Sandro Tonali; Miguel Almiron, Harvey Barnes, Callum Wilson. 

We Say: AC Milan 2-1 Newcastle United

While there’s not much to separate the sides in terms of quality, at least on paper, Milan’s vast experience in European competition could tilt the scales in their favour here.

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