Newcastle United will welcome UEFA Champions League soccer back to St James' Park on Wednesday with the visit of Paris Saint-Germain in Group F. The Magpies are back in Europe for the first time in any competition since 2013 but this will be their first UCL outing since 2003, with 20 years a long time in this sport. You can catch all the action on Paramount+.
Newcastle kicked off their third ever group stage appearance with a goalless draw away at Milan while PSG launched their 12th consecutive season of Champions League involvement with a 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund. The hosts' best run was the 2003 second group stage and their French visitors were beaten finalists as recently as 2020.
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This midweek clash between the two is majorly notable because it pits a Saudi Arabia-backed club against a Qatar-owned one which brings geopolitics into the equation. It is also the latest step on PSG's quest to win the entire thing and potentially the first for Newcastle depending on how their lavish project takes shape in the coming years.
There was no statement of intent from Yasir Al-Rumayyan upon arrival as the new chairman back in 2021 as there was with Parisien counterpart Nasser Al-Khelaifi when Qatar Sports Investments acquired the French champions in 2011. Newcastle are coming into this edition with no major expectations hanging over them yet PSG have been under pressure in Europe from day one.
Initially, things looked promising for the Ligue 1 giants with four consecutive quarterfinals under Carlo Ancelotti and then Laurent Blanc with a squad sensibly constructed around the likes of established signings Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Thiago Motta and Maxwell. That period fell apart spectacularly in 2017 when PSG suffered Barcelona's Remontada in the round of 16, losing after a stunning comeback masterminded by the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
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Since then, the Qatari project has seen one final and another semifinal but also four more round of 16 exits including two more consecutively after the Catalonian nightmare. This year they have embarked on yet another retooling, moving on from Messi and Neymar to a younger more well-balanced squad. It is too early to judge this new-look PSG, but there is an air of greater patience than before as the man who was the architect of Barcelona's Remontada, Luis Enrique, reconstructs a stronger collective than five of the last seven Paris sides to try.
The Spaniard has the credentials thanks to his 2015 Champions League success with Barca and early season patience after a slow start certainly hints at greater realism at Parc des Princes. However, even this latest revamp has come at considerable cost as PSG try to replace underperforming big earners like Neymar and Lionel Messi in a switch to substance over style.
Newcastle have avoided the immediate temptation to spend silly money as the French capital outfit did and have even showed greater restraint than current UCL champions Manchester City whose project took time to truly get going after . There have been no real sweeping changes yet under Eddie Howe and no penchant for superstar signings as there was in Paris almost from the off.
There is no guarantee that this relative level of frugality will set the Magpies up for greater Champions League success than PSG in a shorter timeframe and only time will truly tell. The fact that the French juggernaut finds itself having ripped up its squad to start again with a more functional approach and minimal superstardom 12 years into Qatari ownership is telling, though.
Newcastle's Saudi project could yet go the way of post-2016 Paris and start hoovering up much of the big name talent but the 2017 arrivals of Neymar and to a lesser extent Kylian Mbappe as well as the 2021 Lionel Messi experiment should act as a cautionary tale. The Brazilian and Argentinian flopped compared with expectations and the Frenchman is not exactly a reluctant superstar.
The most notable arrivals on Tyneside so far under Saudi ownership have been the likes of Ligue 1-sourced Bruno Guimaraes and Sven Botman as well as Alexander Isak and Sandro Tonali. Stacked up against PSG's illustrious who's who of genuine superstar talent and high profile mistakes, the Newcastle trio probably would not even crack the lengthy list's top 10.
The Tyneside project is moving in the right direction despite a sluggish start to this term and is under much less pressure coming into a high stakes game for Parisien ownership. Lose and Luis Enrique could suddenly lose the early season patience he has been enjoying which in turn could threaten the back to basics nature of this latest PSG reset which all stems from 2011's premature intentions.