News. Howe hoping for "great spectacle" ahead of Sela Cup

04 Aug 23

Eddie Howe believes Newcastle United's Sela Cup, presented by VisitMalta, clashes against Fiorentina and Villarreal this weekend will be a "good rehearsal" ahead of their upcoming Premier League campaign.

The Magpies conclude their pre-season preparations for the 2023/24 campaign with the inaugural tournament, in which United face Fiorentina and Villarreal on Saturday, August 5th (kick-off 3.30pm BST) and Sunday, August 6th (kick-off 4pm BST) respectively, and tickets are on sale here.

The friendly fixtures could see new signings Sandro Tonali and Harvey Barnes both make their first outings on home soil since their respective moves from AC Milan and Leicester City, while Newcastle United Women are also in action on Saturday as Becky Langley's side face West Bromwich Albion Women (kick-off 6pm BST).

Here are some of the main talking points from Howe's pre-match media briefing at the Magpies’ training ground base in Benton on Friday morning ahead of the competition's double-header...

On Newcastle’s longly-awaited return to St. James’ Park this weekend...

“It’s going to be great to be back home. It’s been a long time since we played at St. James’ Park, that’s what it feels, so it’s great to be back and looking forward to the two games.

“We’re expecting tough opposition. Fiorentina got to the final of the Europa Conference League and were well placed in Serie A and that’s what we want in both games. We want tough examinations.

"If you look at our pre-season fixtures, they are probably as hard as you can get with the purpose of preparing ourselves for the tough start we have.”

On attending Thursday’s premiere of We Are Newcastle United, with the first episode set to air exclusively on Prime Video in the UK, Ireland and the Nordics on Friday, 11th August…

“It was an interesting experience. You never quite know how you’re going to be perceived and what bits are going to be in there and aren’t.

“I thought it was good viewing and entertaining, which is what it is made for. When you look back at some of the things that you’re seeing, I had forgotten some of the feelings, emotions and even some of the events that had happened.

“I think you move forward very, very quickly in football and now I’m thinking purely about this season. I think it evokes a lot of emotion which was an emotional thing to see."

On injury concerns, including the likes of Fabian Schär and Joe Willock...

“We don’t have a totally fit squad. We’re going to make a late decision on whether Fabian Schär is involved at the weekend. He’s certainly very close so that’s a positive thing.

“Joe Willock won’t be involved in either game. He’s still working his way back to full fitness and Emil Krafth won’t be involved.”

On Elliot Anderson and Lewis Miley, with the young duo both impressing during Newcastle’s current pre-season schedule...

“Elliot has done really well in pre-season. He’s come back very fit, looks motivated and has scored goals. I can see a lot of aspects of his game improving and developing.

"I’ve got high hopes from him, I really like him and we’ve got a load of games this year so he’s got a big part to play in our squad.

“I think it speaks volumes for the Newcastle supporters and their love for their own players. To try and develop our own players is crucially important and it’s great to see such two highly talented players that have come through the Academy.

“They’re both very technical which is a tribute to the players themselves but those who have coached them through the years here."

On Sandro Tonali and Harvey Barnes, who could both make their home debuts for the Magpies this weekend...

“I’d say they’re settling in really well. Sandro's come from Italy and it’s been a big change from him but I think he’s adapted to his surroundings really well.

"He has good friendships within the squad already and the level of his play in training and games has been very high. He’s a really good character, very calm and focussed on his football, desperate to improve so I’m seeing really good signs from him.

“Harvey has had a slightly easier transition but he was at Leicester a long time from a very young age so that would’ve been a big thing for him to move but excited by what he can bring and he’s certainly shown already that he’s a goalscorer. I’m really pleased with both players.”

On the importance of the pre-season campaign ahead of the upcoming 2023/24 Premier League season...

“I think that’s the beauty of the two games, back-to-back days and the ladies’ game as well. I think it’s going to, hopefully, be a great spectacle. Hopefully, the weather is kind on us and the supporters but I think, no doubt, that we will get a really good support and atmosphere. I’m hoping for two really good performances.

“I always enjoy pre-season for that thing where you’re playing teams you wouldn't normally play. This year has been slightly different. We had the three Premier League (Summer Series) games which, when we’re back here now, were really good tests for us.

“It let us directly know where we are and how or where we need to improve. European tests are slightly different. Different styles and now we’re playing two teams from different leagues so it’s a really good rehearsal for us."

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