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Howe expecting "difficult" encounter ahead of Blades trip

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe admitted the squad must approach Sunday's Premier League visit to Sheffield United with a similar mentality to last week's 1-0 victory against Brentford.

The Magpies travel to South Yorkshire this weekend (kick-off 4.30pm BST) targeting back-to-back Premier League victories as well as a first away win of the 2023/24 campaign and face Paul Heckingbottom’s Blades, winless in their opening five Premier League fixtures.

Following Tuesday’s impressive draw away at AC Milan, Newcastle’s opening UEFA Champions League Group F clash, Howe stressed the importance of his squad’s preparations for the trip to Bramall Lane following their lengthy venture to Italy earlier this week.

Here are some of the boss’ main talking points from Friday’s pre-match media briefing at the Magpies’ Benton-based training ground:

On his reflection of Tuesday’s goalless UEFA Champions League draw against AC Milan at the San Siro, the Magpies’ first European Cup fixture since 2003:

“I thought it was a great result. I felt that afterwards and I still feel that now. I don’t think it’s underestimated by us internally how good that result was. A really tough place to go (against) Champions League semi-finalists last year.

“It was a hostile atmosphere and their supporters were very good for them, really backing them, which made it difficult for us. The lads showed great mental strength, resilience and it was a resolute display. I was delighted with another clean sheet so lots of positives.”

On preparations for Premier League fixtures whilst balancing midweek Champions League matches:

“I don’t think it’s been dramatically different. Of course, the travelling was but I think in terms of how we prepared, definitely a little bit more delegation from my perspective to my staff. We’re trying to be smart with our time in between games.

“We have to be clever, especially when the demand on the players is so big mentally and physically. We’ve got to get that balance right for them.”

On injury updates, including midfield duo Joelinton and Joe Willock:

“We’re still missing Joelinton and Joe Willock in midfield. Apart from that, we’re pretty good. We hope with Joelinton that he could possibly be back sooner, but with Joe Willock it will definitely be after the international break.”

On facing Sheffield United, who secured automatic promotion to the Premier League last season following a second-placed finish in the Championship:

“(We’re expecting) a difficult game. I think Bramall Lane is a very tough place to go, anytime of the year. They’re a good team, a direct team who will ask us questions physically. They’ve got good athleticism in their team, counter-attacking, and they’re very strong from set plays.

“They’ve got lots of areas to their team that can hurt us if we’re not right so I think the big challenge for us is to mentally approach the game as we did the Brentford match where we were spot on in our mindset and importance of the game, responding really well with maybe not a magnificent display but doing enough to get the job done.

"We’re going to have to get all the basics right if we’re going to compete in this game."

On Sandro Tonali’s emotional return to the San Siro on Tuesday, with the Italian midfielder spending three seasons at his boyhood club before joining United in July:

“There were (a lot of eyes on him in Italy). I think it’s worth remembering he’s still a young player. I was so pleased for him the reaction he got from the Milan fans. That’s a mark of a few things; how Sandro conducted himself in Milan, how good a player he is and recognition from a group of supporters that he’d given everything for the club.

“Great things for Sandro but also great things for us because it’s a mark of what big a talent he is. It would have been an emotional game for him.

"A difficult night for him, no doubt, but I thought he handled himself really well and, without speaking to him about it, he’s probably pleased the game is out of the way and he can focus on the rest of the season with us.”

On the hectic fixture schedule, with Newcastle set to host Manchester City in the Carabao Cup third round on Wednesday night before facing Burnley at St. James' Park on Saturday, 30th September:

“We are going to have to rotate the squad. We’re not going to be able to play the same eleven players every week. We don’t want to make, if we can’t help it, wholesale changes to the team in any one game.

“I don’t think that is going to do our rhythm any good and help us. Tweaks, as we’re going along, hopefully then the team will become unaffected and we manage to keep everyone in the team fresh."


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Eddie Howe's pre-Sheff United media briefing in full

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