Newcastle need to flex their muscles ahead of European football

Newcastle’s owners need to flex their muscles in the summer window, ahead of their return to the Champions League… PLUS, why Leicester will feel hard done by after VAR’s performance at St James’ Park

  • Newcastle ensured their return to the Champions League after Monday’s result 
  • The Magpies were held to a 0-0 draw with relegation candidates Leicester  
  • There were a number of talking points from the encounter at St James’ Park 

Mission accomplished for Newcastle, who will compete in the Champions League for the first time since 2001-02 and can bring the party atmosphere when they take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in their final game of the season.

No such fun for Leicester, who look destined for the Championship despite hanging on to a point at St James’ Park and securing a first clean sheet in the league since last November.

Newcastle’s achievement is an example of how to play a strong hand well: use huge financial power to hire the right coach, put the right team around him and sign the right players.

Leicester’s plight shows how to play a reasonable hand badly, yet a win over West Ham on Sunday could yet produce a miraculous escape as long as Everton fail to beat Bournemouth at Goodison Park. The Foxes were not helped by the VAR team on Monday, who continue to amaze.

Here Mail Sport looks at the main talking points from a 0-0 draw which showcased two clubs in vastly different states.

Newcastle booked their place in next year’s Champions League after a 0-0 draw with Leicester


Expect one of the world’s wealthiest clubs to flex their muscles again now they have qualified for the Champions League. Boss Eddie Howe indicated that Newcastle would upgrade the squad in the window ahead while trying to retain the team spirit that got them there.

‘It has been fundamental to our success,’ he said. ‘The biggest challenge for us is to maintain that and improve that while adding to the squad but it won’t be huge numbers.

‘We have been really good in three transfer windows. Now we have become a better team there are fewer players who can make us better. We don’t have the ability to spend the money people think we have. It will be a small group but hopefully ones who can make a difference.’

Newcastle will be constrained to an extent by Financial Fair Play rules but need to strengthen across the board for a European campaign. And with Leicester heading for the drop, they may move again for James Maddison and Harvey Barnes.

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe is embraced by co-owner Amanda Staveley after the match


Leicester’s first clean sheet since the World Cup break at least gives them a platform to build from as they try to secure the win over West Ham that will give them a chance of survival.

If the Foxes take three points on Sunday and Everton fail to do so at home to Bournemouth, they will stay up – but Dean Smith knows he needs to be more adventurous than at St James’ Park.

James Maddison and Harvey Barnes will surely return to the starting XI after being benched at Newcastle as Smith went for steel over style, but it feels as though the stage is set for another piece of magic from Jamie Vardy.

Arguably the greatest player in Leicester’s history, Vardy helped the club win the Premier League seven years ago and the FA Cup five years later. He has already said that avoiding relegation would eclipse either achievement – and he is surely the man to deliver it.

Jamie Vardy could add another fairytale moment to his career on the final day of the season


Another game, another baffling VAR call. Bruno Guimaraes’ appalling challenge on Boubakary Soumare earned a booking initially but a glance at the replays suggested the Brazilian was in deep trouble. Right? Wrong.

Guimaraes’ studs landed flush above Soumare’s knee and could have caused serious injury. It was a bad one for referee Andre Marriner to miss with the naked eye but with the aid of technology, should surely have been corrected. Leicester boss Dean Smith was told the challenge lacked sufficient force to merit a sending off.

Those of us who dislike VAR have long since lost that battle but the technology is going through the same problems as DRS in cricket, with the desire to back the on-field officials apparently more important than reaching the right outcome.

Find a way to speed up the marginal offside judgements. Use common sense and logic – if a player’s studs make contact with an opponent’s knee, it is a red card. Stop fiddling and just get the big calls right. If it is this difficult to operate, why have it at all?

Bruno Guimaraes (middle left) was lucky to escape a red card for a challenge on Boubakary Soumaré (middle right) during the match

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