Newcastle United seek to repeat Champions League heroics as competition returns to St James' Park

Newcastle United have previously beaten Barcelona and Juventus at St James' Park. Credit: PA

The eyes of the footballing world will be fixed on St James' Park as Newcastle United prepare to host their first Champions League match in 20 years.

Ligue 1 champions Paris St Germain are the visitors and travel with a plethora of exceptional talents like Marquinhos, Ousmane Dembele and most notably the man considered to be one of the world's best - Kylian Mbappe.

Beating the Parisians would rank as one of the most impressive results in Newcastle's recent history and Eddie Howe has already spoken of the importance of the St James' Park crowd to his side's hopes.

The iconic ground is no stranger to big matches with some of the most famous Champions League games having been fought under its lights. The Magpies have previously been part of the competition on two occasions, humbling some of the biggest clubs in European football along the way.

Eddie Howe and his players will be seeking to replicate some of the success Newcastle have previously enjoyed in the Champions League. Credit: PA

Newcastle's first ever Champions League group stage is perhaps the most memorable. Barcelona were in town as Kenny Dalglish's side, who were missing Alan Shearer through injury, looked for a new hero.

In Tino Asprillia they found one. The winger bagged a hat-trick as a Barcelona team including current PSG manager Luis Enrique were defeated 3-2 on Tyneside. Keith Gillespie was one of those involved on the day making an important contribution as he produced two assists for the Colombian's goals and praised the home crowd for their impact.

“It was one of those nights where everything went right for me,” Gillespie explained. “My job was pretty much just putting balls into the box and luckily Tino got on the end of two of them, it’s nice to have had such a big involvement in the game.

“I get asked about it when I’m in Newcastle all the time and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of talking about it. It’s great, even 26 years on people still want to talk about it because it has a place in history because it was the first Champions League game we had.

"In terms of playing at St James' Park I have never heard as much noise as I did that night and to get the victory against one of the biggest club sides in Europe was incredible."

Tino Asprilla scored a hat-trick as Newcastle beat Barcelona 3-2 in their first ever Champions League group game. Credit: PA

Unfortunately for Newcastle fans, the Magpies were not able to make the most of their opening-day advantage. A draw and three straight defeats followed with a 2-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv back at St James' Park in the final group game not enough to salvage their place in the competition.

Five years later the club were back on the world stage this time under the tutelage of Sir Bobby Robson. However, the Magpies got their campaign underway with three straight defeats to leave themselves on the brink of elimination.

Robson's men had to beat a Juventus side boasting the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Pavel Nedved and Alessandro Del Piero to stand any chance of remaining in the competition.

The Magpies delivered, producing another one of those nights at St James' Park that has lived long in the memory. Andy Griffin's scruffy strike was a far cry from Asprillia's hat-trick but it meant just as much as the three points remained on Tyneside courtesy of a 1-0 win.

Andy Griffin's goal was enough for Newcastle to beat Juventus the last time the club were in the Champions League. Credit: PA

Newcastle rallied in the two games that followed, winning both to proceed to the second group phase for the first time. Despite impressive 3-1 wins home and away against Bayer Leverkusen and a point against Inter Milan at the San Siro, the Magpies lost their three other matches and exited the tournament before the knockout rounds.

Now, the Champions League rolls back into the North East as Newcastle look to win their first game in the competition for two decades. The St James' Park crowd will be crucial as Howe's side seek to replicate the famous wins from yesteryear.

Gillespie has already seen first-hand the difference the home faithful can make under the lights and backed them to make things difficult for Mbappe and co this time around.

Newcastle fans will be crucial to the club's Champions League hopes. Credit: PA

"The fans here are as good as anyone," he explained. "They are going to get behind the team like they always do but on Champions League nights there's always that little bit extra noise.

"They are special nights and the fans play a huge part. Teams coming to St James' Park always find it very difficult and that's because of the fans and the noise that they make."

Newcastle's encounter against PSG gets underway at 8pm on Wednesday 4 October in what will be one of the most eye-catching spectacles St James' Park has ever seen.

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