Champions League qualification would be a miracle for Newcastle United – What’s changed?
The 2023/24 Champions League adventure for Newcastle United ended last week.
When the final whistle blew on the final group match, it was the end, for now.
Eddie Howe’s team coming within 31 minutes of qualifying for the Champions League last 16. Actually 22 minutes, as that was when Maignan and the woodwork came together to make that save of the season to deny NUFC.
It wasn’t to be.
What about next season though?
Well, if you remember, before this 2023/24 season kicked off, we were being told by all the experts (well, rival fans journalists and pundits!) that ‘Champions League qualification would be a miracle for Newcastle United’ to do this time around.
The received wisdom of the ‘experts’ was that Newcastle United couldn’t possibly end up in a Champions League qualification spot this 2023/24 season, due to not having a big enough / strong enough squad and far too many matches to play.
So what has changed?
Now the message from pundits, journalists and rival fans is that if Newcastle United don’t finish in a Champions League qualifying position, it will supposedly be some kind of embarrassing disgrace, Eddie Howe should be sacked, the sort of nonsense we have all been reading.
Newcastle United have had a punishing schedule of matches as the ‘experts’ predicted BUT on top of that, the squad that all the experts said was too small and not strong enough, has basically been cut in half for months.
Yet, this is how the Premier League table looks on Thursday:
As you can see, Newcastle United sixth in the table on 29 points.
Eddie Howe’s side now have two games left before they reach the halfway point of this Premier League season, those matches against two clubs in the bottom four who are both in terrible form, Luton and Forest.
Two wins would put Newcastle on 35 points at the halfway point, on course for 70 points if continuing that average. Last season, 68 points was enough to get top four and Champions League qualification. Newcastle United actually managed 71 points and ended up fourth. If winning these next two games, NUFC would be only half a point behind that schedule of finishing up on 71 points again.
Plus of course, still a very strong possibility / likelihood that fifth place could be enough to get Champions League qualification this season.
This is not to pretend that everything has been great at Newcastle United this season, there have been downs as well as ups. However, even with the horrific injury list on top of the stacked match schedule we knew was coming, Newcastle United are bang in there, currently top six and if winning these next two winnable matches, will end 2023 very much up there challenging for top four or five.
Nothing is guaranteed but if Newcastle United can pick up this many points in the first half of a Premier League season despite such a damaging list of missing players and playing every midweek, apart from during international fortnights.
Then surely we can have real hopes of even better Premier League form, now returning to hardly playing any midweek matches at all, hopefully getting at least a certain level of better luck in terms of availability, only (hopefully) the FA Cup as an ongoing distraction to the Premier League matches, plus the possibility of new signings arriving in January.
This season is far from over and still absolutely so much to play for, plus Newcastle United in anything but a poor situation as things currently stand. We just need to get these two more 2023 victories against Luton and Forest to see out this calendar year.
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