Eddie Howe's honest Champions League verdict as Dortmund name-drop Newcastle after PSG success

What could have been?

Newcastle United's Champions League 'Group of Death' did in fact prove to be the competition's fiercest after two members of Group F, Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund, this week battled it out for a place in the final, with the latter emerging victorious.

The Magpies crashed out at the first stage of the competition back in December, despite taking a point from AC Milan and snatching four against PSG. Dortmund, however, beat Newcastle home and away to kickstart their journey to the final, with manager Edin Terzic pinpointing the win over Eddie Howe's side at Signal Iduna Park as the moment his team started to believe they could go far in the tournament.

“We knew we were going to have chances in that group of death but to be honest, maybe we were after the second game with only one points, and we hadn’t scored a goal," Terzic told CBS Sports after Tuesday's semi-final second leg win over PSG.

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“Then we had our first great performance and win in Newcastle, a very tough game for us. And from that, we can see that maybe anything is possible, especially if you look at Milan. They had been to the semi-final last season and we won at the San Siro and had an OK performance at home. Then we started to believe and dream.”

Newcastle won't be battling it out in Europe's premier competition next season but Howe is certainly aiming to finish as high as possible with just three games remaining. The hope is that Newcastle can overcome a gruelling season to book a spot in the Europa League; a feat many believe would trump last season's shock fourth-place finish given the vast amount of injuries in recent months.

Speaking to Gary Neville on the latest episode of Sky Bet's The Overlap, Howe admits last season's success took everyone at the club by surprise, with the boss since striving to make sure Newcastle's ceiling hadn't been hit, despite the rapid ascent to the upper echelons of the Premier League.

“For us, fourth was never in our eyes last year, it was a case of could we build from the previous season, first not to have a relegation battle on our hands and then grow the team forward," Howe said. "When we hit fourth, it felt like we’d climbed so quickly and early – where do we go from here? For us, we’re hugely ambitious and never take a step back – can we improve, not necessarily our league position, but our general performance.

"At times we have and at times we haven’t this year, it’s been up and down. December in particular was quite a difficult month for us this year but we’ve managed to weather that period. I think we’ve done okay – we have been consistent in our own way, and if we could maintain our position, then I think that’ll be a great season.”