Champions League preview: AC Milan vs. Newcastle – Team news, opposition insight, stats and more

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan get their 2023-24 European campaign underway at San Siro on Tuesday evening as they face Newcastle United in the first round of Champions League group stage action.

After the derby dismantling at the hands of Inter on Saturday, there is the need for an immediate response from the Rossoneri in order to not throw away the very positive signs from the first three rounds of the season.

Stefano Pioli stressed the importance of putting the weekend’s disappointment firmly in the past and trying to use the home crowd as a springboard to get back on the right path in his pre-match press conference.

Game date: Tuesday, September 19
Kick-off time: 18:45 (CEST)
Venue: San Siro
Referee: Jose Maria Sanchez (VAR: Hernandez)

Team news

The 5-1 loss to Inter has left Pioli with some uncertainty, and there are a couple of reasons why he might well choose to make changes to his line-up.

The first is that the players who have played all four games from the start must be given some rest and new energy is needed in Europe, and the second is more psychological because clear minds are needed after such a damaging defeat.

One of the the changes will almost certainly be in defence where Fikayo Tomori – suspended against Inter and replaced by Simon Kjaer – will return to partner Malick Thiaw, who had a lot of issues himself against the Nerazzurri.

In attack, there should be a chance for Samuel Chukwueze. He would replace Pulisic and get his first start of the season, given that the USA was first to come off in the derby after a lot of travelling over the international break.

The final change should be in midfield where one of Ruben Loftus-Cheek or Tijjani Reijnders (most likely the latter) is expected to be replaced by Tommaso Pobega, who made eight appearances and one goal in the last edition of the Champions League.

For the first game in the group experience is needed which Yunus Musah doesn’t yet have, while Noah Okafor and Luka Jovic could come on in the second half.

Probable Milan XI (4-3-3): Maignan; Calabria, Tomori, Thiaw, Theo Hernandez; Loftus-Cheek, Krunic, Pobega; Chukwueze, Giroud, Leao.

Newcastle managed to secure a fourth-placed finish last season and thus a first Champions League berth in 20 years, so during the summer they attempted to take advantage of the momentum generated.

They of course spent big on the signing of Sandro Tonali from Milan to add a new dimension to their midfield department, while they also invested in the signings of Harvey Barnes from Leicester and Tino Livramento from Southampton. Yankubah Minteh also joined them from OB.

Despite bolstering the squad, the Toon have had a mixed start to the season in the Premier League. They beat Aston Villa 5-1 in the first game of the season, but then lost to Manchester City, Liverpool (despite being a goal up with 10 men) and Brighton, before returning to winning ways on Saturday against Brentford.

Sky are reporting that Tonali did the entire training session with his team-mates today and will therefore get the nod to start on the right side of the midfield three Eddie Howe will deploy.

In terms of other team news, Joelinton is out of the game which means that Sean Longstaff and Bruno Guimarães will be the duo that complete the three-man midfield.

Nick Pope will be in goal with Kieran Trippier at right-back, Fabian Schar and Sven Botman as the two centre-backs and then Dan Burn as the left-back.

The attacking trident should be composed of Anthony Gordon and Miguel Almiron as the left and right wingers either side of Alexander Isak.

Probable Newcastle XI (4-3-3): Pope; Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn; Tonali, Guimaraes, Longstaff; Almiron, Isak, Gordon.

Head to head

Milan have played 10 teams from England before ranging from Manchester United who they have met 12 times in official competitions to Portsmouth who they played in the UEFA Cup once 15 years ago.

However, they have never played Newcastle United in their history meaning that this will be a first for both clubs, though it will not be the Magpies’ first visit to San Siro.

That is because they have played Inter four times in their history, losing only once, winning once and drawing twice. They have also played Juventus and Roma twice, as well as Palermo once.

Newcastle’s overall record against Italian clubs reads as follows: 9 games, 3 wins, 3 draws and 3 defeats.

Match facts…

➤ This is the first ever competitive meeting between Milan and Newcastle – Milan have won just one of their last 11 matches against English sides (D2 L8), though that did come against Spurs in last season’s UEFA Champions League (1-0).

➤ Newcastle won their last European away game against Italian opposition, beating Palermo 1-0 in the 2006-07 UEFA Cup. They’d failed to win any of their first four visits to Italy before this (D2 L2).

➤ This will be Milan’s 20th UEFA Champions League campaign, the second most of any Italian side after Juventus (23). After seven season absence between 2014-15 and 2020-21, this is their third consecutive campaign in the competition.

➤ Semi-finalists last season, Milan have only been eliminated from the first round group stage in one of their last 14 UEFA Champions League campaigns (2021-22).

➤ This will be Newcastle’s third appearance in the UEFA Champions League, having previously played in the 1997-98 and 2002-03 campaigns. Their last match was 20 years and 184 days ago, with this the longest gap between games for an English side in the competition.

➤ In their last appearance in the UEFA Champions League (2002-03), Newcastle United became the first side to lose their opening three matches yet still progress to the next round. Atalanta in 2019-20 are the only side to have achieved this since.

➤ Milan have won their last two games in the group stage in the UEFA Champions League (4-0 v both Dinamo Zagreb and FC Red Bull Salzburg), and will be looking to win three in a row in the group stage for the first time since September 2006 under Carlo Ancelotti (3).

➤ Newcastle have a 56% win rate in UEFA Champions League home matches (W5 DO L4), compared to just 22% away from home (W2 D2 L5).

➤ Only Vinicius Júnior (47) made more successful take-ons in the UEFA Champions League than Rafael Leão (39) in 2022-23, while the Portuguese had both the most expected goals (1.2) and expected assists (1.2) following take-ons of any player in the competition last term.

➤ Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali played in all 12 of Milan’s games in the UEFA Champions League last season, with his total of 1,053 minutes played being not only the most of any Milan player, but the most of any outfielder overall in 2022-23.

Ones to watch

Giroud and Leao were the main attacking threats for Milan in the Champions League last season and that is likely to continue, but there will be a lot of eyes on Chukwueze presuming he does start, given he was the most expensive summer signing but has only come off the bench so far.

Answers are needed from all of the back four after Saturday’s dreadful showing, while in midfield Pobega and Loftus-Cheek/Reijnders must strike a balance between contributing to the attack and helping Reijnders in transition.

There is no doubting who the two big threats for Newcastle are in the attacking department, with Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak having already combined for five goals in the Premier League this season. Anthony Gordon and Harvey Barnes provide the creativity from wide areas, with each having a goal and an assist.

At the back, Sven Botman will come to the stadium he could have called his own had he joined last summer instead of choosing the Tynesiders. In midfield, Tonali would of course get a tremendous reception but it is Bruno Guimarães who remains their lynchpin and metronome.


The derby defeat will have undoubtedly had a mental impact on Pioli’s team and while they have often responded well to adversity, this isn’t the kind of game where either side will go gung-ho for the win and that’s why it could be a cagey early-group affair.

AC Milan 1-1 Newcastle

Tags AC Milan Milan Newcastle


  1. I can see us losing this TBF. It would be another game in which Pioli would be overdependent on Leao, Theo, for the goals. Starting Pobega and Krunic against Tonali and Bruno SMH.

  2. I bet Newcastle is terrified that Pobega and Krunic are starting in the midfield. I’m sure Pep and Klopp will be scouting their two next recruits. Pioli better tell them to back off his man.

    1. And who would terrify them instead? Yes, everyone is afraid when they see RLC or Pobega or Reijnders or Krunic. All are about the same level, a bit different but nobody anywhere is afraid of any of them. Ok, maybe Torino and Spezia players are. That is it.

        1. No, I have been saying it before they played. Why are you acting like that isn’t true? Did I not say that Inter is the first test and everyone will see how bad they are against top player? The midfield is not bad because of this game, but because they are average players. You can find it 50 times on different articles here on sempre milan. Classic dejan, you also never reply back. Why? On another one you told me “Milan spent more than anyone” like that matters. It matters how you spend the money. You can get 100 players for 700M, they won’t improve the team, but you will spend more than anyone. Is that really relevant? NO. They could have got 2 good players for MC for the Tonali money, but they went for discounts. This is what discounts get you. I just hope it will be enough for top 4 finish in the end.

          1. Sorry for not replying quick enough for you – I wasn’t by my phone eagerly awaiting your reply, my bad. I said Milan spent more than anyone because you said Cardinale was cheap – which he obviously isn’t. By the way is your real name Martin aka Karen? I’m getting the same vibe as from a guy on here a while back calling everyone out who’s “too scared to reply.” And now you pop up out of nowhere….

          2. No, I said that he was cheap when Botman wasn’t brought in. They missed out over 5-6M and 1M a year wages. That is being cheap. Spending 200M on 10 players is kind of being cheap today if you are targeting players that cost 20M just because they cost 20M. Yes, some are good but you don’t get a title winning team with that strategy, whatever anyone say. Not being cheap is buying the best players you can get. I’m sure Milan could have gotten 2 great midfielders for Tonali money but these were cheaper.

            Also where did I say you were scared to reply? You comment on what I write often and you never replied to what I had to say. Just be sarcastic, add an etiquette onto me and leave. Nice one. Oh, you did it again, right? When facts are there you reply the same, every time. You’re a pathetic being. Not human, just being.

        2. Just to add, since you will not reply. I think Milan needs to buy lions that will play their best games against top teams. Not alibi players that play best against teams where you can play some Primavera players. That is what I think of this midfield.

  3. I really don’t understand his selection. Arguable the most important game to start off the Champions League and now you’re going to start pobega when you’ve given him the 5th most minutes in midfield.

    1. But there is no one to play. Musah loses the ball to easy, he needs time. And Reijnders didn’t defend against Inter, he needs to be benched. Some others would probably be benched for the game but there is no one else to play.

  4. I see us winning 2-1

    When we won the derby 0-6 many moons ago, we lost the next match against Mancio’s Fiorentina 1-2 in front of our fans. Heavy wins and defeats matter but I don’t buy the doom and gloom.

    I trust our guys to be professionals and get the job done 2-1 tomorrow since Newcastle is not that great and Inter has our number and our kids’ number also.

    1. That season we won the derby, 0-6 only to finish outside of top four and not qualify for the Champions League. Although Inter missed the Champions League as well that season! So yes, i wouldn’t doom and gloom because it’s Matchday 4.

  5. Basically I think RLC could be useful for Milan if he is moved to play instead of Krunic. Yes, he said he doesn’t like to play defensive but that is what he could probably do good even against better teams due to his strength and technique.

    Hopefully they can beat Newcastle, but Newcastle lost to 3 really great teams, not some randoms.

    1. Thats how i see RLC too. He need to play in Krunic spot. His passing is too bad for him to be a creative mid. His physicality however can be used in defence.

      1. At Chelsea in recent years, RLC was never a top midfielder, but where he was passable was breaking through to the final third, usually by advancing the ball on the wings. He often filled in at wingback. His physicality is deceiving — he has the frame of an imposing defensive midfielder, but every time Chelsea tried him there he disappointed. It’s just not the position he ever learned as a youth. But his ball carrying and link up play are decent and his best attributes.

        1. I don’t know, if he can’t play at DM, he is useless. He is average in what you mentioned, there are a bunch of players that do that better. You can find 10 in Serie A and for less money.

  6. Cautiously confident we can eke out a win here. Sure, the derby drubbing hurts, but as James mentioned above, Inter has got our numbers for a while – they’re basically our kryptonite at the moment.

    Hopefully the morale stayed high (Ibra’s presence yesterday would’ve lift up some spirit somewhat) and let’s give a great outing tomorrow!

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