Paris Saint-Germain boss Luis Enrique has admitted Newcastle were the pot four team nobody wanted to draw as they renew their acquaintance with the Champions League.
The French side, along with AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund, have been pitched into Group F battle with the Magpies, who are back in the big time after a 20-year absence following last season’s fourth-placed Premier League finish.
Enrique, part of the Barcelona side which lost 3-2 at St James’ Park in Newcastle’s very first fixture in the competition in 1997, knows they could be a major threat on their return to the European stage with the two teams set to face off on Wednesday night.
He said: “They are the team from the fourth pot in the draw that no one really wanted, of course. We know that they play at a high level.
“They’re very good in possession, they’re very good off the ball as well. They play with a very high press – they’re almost a compete football team.
“Tomorrow, they’re going to be playing in front of their extremely-passionate supporters as well and that’s going to help them.
“All teams can go far in the Champions League. There’s no reason why Newcastle can’t go far either. No one wanted to play them, I guess, also because we saw how good they were last season.
“It’s a spectacular place to go and play and it will also be good for us to see what our team is made of playing at St James’ Park.
“I’m envious of my players because they’re going to get to experience that first-hand out on the pitch tomorrow and I just hope that it’s a great game.”
Enrique remembers his visit to Tyneside with Barca well, although not fondly despite scoring on a night when Tino Asprilla’s brilliant hat-trick saw Kenny Dalglish’s men secure one of the club’s most famous victories.
He said: “Obviously it was a tough game, a really tough game. Twenty-six years ago seems a lifetime ago, I guess – I was certainly a lot younger than I am now.
“It is true that I scored – I think it finished 3-2? They had great players, a great atmosphere generated by the crowd. It wasn’t easy then and I don’t suppose it will be easy tomorrow either.”
Defender Lucas Hernandez arrived in the north east of England with a little extra inside knowledge after speaking to his younger brother Theo, who played for AC Milan in their 0-0 draw with the Magpies a fortnight ago.
Asked what he had been told, Hernandez said: “He told me they were very solid in defence. I know Milan created quite a few chances, but they didn’t take them on the night and of course in the Champions League, if you don’t take your chances, obviously you’re not going to win the game.
“He told me more than anything else, they’re solid, compact, they’re good on the counter-attack and some of the players are very quick going forward.”