Newcastle returns to Champions League after 20 years
Newcastle secures top 4 finish in the Premier League for the first time since the 2002-2003 season after a goalless draw against Leicester City in the late match of Matchday 37.
At St. James’ Park, Newcastle dominated the game with 78% ball possession and had 23 shots, four of which were on target, compared to just one shot from Leicester.
Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron, and Bruno Guimaraes all had shots that hit the woodwork. Newcastle has hit the woodwork 24 times in the Premier League this season, more than any other club in the league.
Despite the goalless draw, Newcastle’s top 4 finish is guaranteed. They currently sit in third place with 70 points, four points ahead of fifth-placed Liverpool, with one more round remaining in the season. On the final day, on May 28th, manager Eddie Howe and his team will travel to Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge.
Newcastle has played over 125 European matches and has appeared in the Champions League group stage twice. The first time was in the 1997-1998 season when they made a statement with a 3-2 victory over Barcelona, thanks to a hat-trick from Faustino Asprilla.
For the second time in the 2002-2003 season, when the Champions League still had a two-group stage format, Newcastle United made it to the tournament. At that time, with captain Alan Shearer, Newcastle progressed past the first group stage but was eliminated in the subsequent round. One notable match was their 2-2 draw against Inter, where around 12,000 Newcastle fans traveled to Italy to support their team at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium.
Newcastle has also achieved a top 4 finish in the Premier League for the first time since the 2002-2003 season, finishing third with 69 points. However, in that season, Newcastle did not participate in the Champions League group stage as they were knocked out by Partizan in the third qualifying round.
Newcastle previously won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the precursor to the UEFA Cup and Europa League, in the 1968-1969 season. They regularly participated in European competitions during the early 1990s and 2000s. In the 2012-2013 season, Newcastle reached the quarterfinals of the Europa League but was defeated by Benfica with an aggregate score of 2-4 over two legs.
When Eddie Howe was appointed as manager in November 2021, Newcastle was in 19th place in the Premier League. The English coach helped the club avoid relegation and secure a top 4 finish this season, alongside reaching the final of the League Cup, where they lost 0-2 to Manchester United at Wembley.
After the draw against Leicester, Howe expressed his pride in leading Newcastle to the Champions League, considering it the most significant achievement of his managerial career. The 45-year-old coach also acknowledged that Newcastle did not initially set the goal of finishing in the top 4 of the Premier League this season, as their primary focus was to fight for survival after last season’s relegation battle.
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