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Injury and suspension crisis could derail Newcastle United’s season

Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe concedes he has never dealt with an injury crisis of this magnitude in his managerial career, with several players on the sidelines. 

In an interview with Sky Sports, the 45-year-old manager stated he won’t be looking for excuses despite facing the most severe personnel crisis in his career.

Crippled by injuries and suspensions, the Tyneside outfit took a trip to Signal Iduna Park to face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday and lost 2-0.

Dan Burn, Sven Botman, Sandro Tonali, Matt Targett, Alexander Isak, Harvey Barnes, Javier Manquillo, Jacob Murphy and Elliot Anderson were unavailable for selection.

Without a dozen first-team stars, Howe’s side barely stood a chance in North Rhine-Westphalia. And after back-to-back defeats to the Germans, Newcastle’s Champions League campaign is in limbo.

Going into the last two group-stage rounds, they languish at the bottom of the so-called ‘group of death’ and will have to make the most out of the upcoming games against AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germian.

But they cannot let European commitments make them take their eyes off domestic competitions, with seven Premier League matches awaiting them before the festive period. 

And then, there’s a mammoth League Cup quarter-final tie against Chelsea, which falls on December 19. 

Newcastle’s fixtures between now and Christmas will be coming thick and fast, and it’s only natural to wonder how will the personnel crisis affect the Magpies’ results.

Premier League

Newcastle will play relegation-threatened Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday. That’s one of the four Premier League travels waiting in the wings. 

Except for a trip to Luton Town deep in December, which is easy on paper, two of their remaining three away league games look ominous. 

Facing Everton at Goodison Park is never a pleasant experience, regardless of the Toffees’ status in the Premier League. That’s not to mention they’ll also meet Tottenham Hotspur in London.

But Newcastle’s home matches look even more daunting. Chelsea’s visit to St James’ Park on November 25 will prepare them for a revenge-poised encounter against a downtrodden Manchester United side.

Howe’s team humbled the Red Devils 3-0 at Old Trafford in the previous League Cup round. However, just one win in their last seven league meetings paints a bleak picture for the Magpies. 

Despite making a valiant effort to bounce back from a dreadful run of three defeats in the first four Premier League rounds and rekindle their top-four ambitions, they have a mountain to climb.

Newcastle head into Gameweek 12 only four points adrift of the Champions League spots after mustering a seven-game unbeaten league streak. 

Given the quality of the sides they’re battling for a top-four finish, there’s barely room for error. Unfortunately, a lack of strength in depth threatens to undo the Magpies’ good work.

Champions League

Howe has a choice to make. He can either pursue continental glory with his depleted squad or sacrifice Newcastle’s first Champions League journey in two decades to boost their domestic prospects. 

There’s a good chance he would’ve already neglected European duties if only his side didn’t pull off a 4-1 demolition of PSG on home turf on Matchday 2. 

Newcastle have drawn a blank in the other three Group F outings, but that success keeps them within a two-point distance of knockout progression, making it difficult for Howe to renounce his lofty ambitions. 

While intentionally exiting the Champions League to increase their chances in an intense top-four race in the Premier League makes sense, given an injury wobble at St James’ Park, it’s only up to Howe to decide.

The Magpies’ trip to the Parc des Princes falls on November 28 and is sandwiched by a pair of high-profile home league games against Chelsea and Man United. 

It’s hard to imagine Newcastle’s injury-hit squad performing at the highest level in such a hectic schedule.

On that basis, no one would blame Howe for pulling the plug on the Magpies’ Champions League campaign.

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