Dining at Europe's top table for the first time in 20 years, Newcastle United's 2023-24 Champions League baptism sees the Magpies meet seven-time winners AC Milan at San Siro in Tuesday's Group F battle.
While the Magpies snapped a three-game losing run to defeat Brentford in their most recent Premier League affair, the Rossoneri were humiliated by old foes Inter Milan.
A Milanese downpour drenched those in attendance at San Siro on Saturday, but there was no raining on the Inter parade during a one-sided Derby della Madonnina, as the Nerazzurri scored five goals against their arch nemesis for the first time since 1974 in a complete annihilation.
Rafael Leao had given Stefano Pioli's men a glimmer of hope following a Henrikh Mkhitaryan opener and Marcus Thuram rocket, but the 34-year-old former inspired Inter to a magnificent success, scoring his second of the afternoon and setting up Davide Frattesi either side of a Hakan Calhanoglu penalty against his old club.
As well as equalling that aforementioned 49-year-old goalscoring streak, Inter also made it five successive wins over Milan for the first time ever, as the Rossoneri's Champions League journey last year also ended at the hands of their San Siro adversaries in the semi-finals, losing 3-0 on aggregate.
Nevertheless, a bullish Pioli - who had led Milan to three opening wins versus Bologna, Torino and Roma this term - insisted that he could have few qualms with his side's efforts for the first 70 minutes of Saturday's derby, not that his affirmations would improve the mood of the Rossoneri faithful.
However, having been billed as the 'away' team for that humbling defeat, Milan welcome Newcastle to San Siro having lost just one of their last 13 competitive matches as the 'home' side, and they bested English opposition in the shape of Tottenham Hotspur during last year's Champions League, albeit having previously been beaten 5-0 over two group-stage ties by Chelsea.
While Milan had strung together a three-game winning sequence in the top flight before Saturday's embarrassment, Newcastle hosted Brentford in their most recent Premier League affair aiming to salvage a sense of pride after losing three on the bounce during a sombre summer.
A narrow defeat at Manchester City was far from disastrous, but letting a one-goal lead slip to the 10 men of Liverpool and being single-handedly torn to shreds by Brighton & Hove Albion's Evan Ferguson led to some murmurs of discontent, although Eddie Howe is still believed to have the complete backing of the Magpies board.
The former Bournemouth head coach breathed the biggest sigh of relief when his side ended their three-game losing streak against the Bees, who succumbed to a Callum Wilson penalty in the second half of a tumultuous affair, in which the England striker had another goal ruled out before the Magpies were denied a second spot kick.
An imminent European sojourn may have been playing on the minds of Howe's crop during their miserable run of results, as the Magpies gear up for their first Champions League match since the summer of 2003, where their qualifying journey ended with a penalty-shootout loss to Partizan.
Back in the days of two group stages in 2002-03, Newcastle did make a San Siro stopover to meet Inter, where an Alan Shearer brace was in vain as the Nerazzurri came back to draw 2-2, but Tuesday's game will mark their first competitive meeting with Milan before Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund await later on in a mouthwatering Group F.
One minor positive for Milan at the weekend was that no more players entered the infirmary with injuries, although Pioli was without centre-back Pierre Kalulu due to a thigh concern - which could keep him out for a few weeks - while Ismael Bennacer is on the long road to recovery from knee surgery.
The suspended Fikayo Tomori helplessly watched on from the sidelines as the Nerazzurri obliterated the Rossoneri, but the England international is eligible to return on Tuesday and could take the place of Malick Thiaw, who flattered to deceive and then some at the weekend.
Christian Pulisic was largely anonymous during the derby too, so Samuel Chukwueze may come into Pioli's thinking for a start alongside Leao and Olivier Giroud, who was able to complete 77 minutes on Saturday despite taking a knock for France on international duty.
The Rossoneri will also be reunited with one of their former troops in Sandro Tonali, whose reunion with Milan was in jeopardy when he sustained an injury during the international break, but the Italian was able to make the bench against Brentford and should be reintroduced into the XI this week.
However, neither Joe Willock (calf) nor Emil Krafth (knee) will be involved for their side's Champions League opener, while Howe has conceded that Joelinton will not be available for Tuesday's encounter owing to the knee injury he picked up while playing for Brazil. Meanwhile, Matt Ritchie, Mark Gillespie and Javier Manquillo have all been left out of the Magpies' CL squad.
With Tonali expected to make a swift return, 20-year-old Elliot Anderson will surely drop out of the XI, while a refreshed Alexander Isak should be given the nod in the number nine role over Wilson, despite the latter's winning spot kick at the weekend.
AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Calabria, Tomori, Kjaer, Hernandez; Pobega, Krunic, Loftus-Cheek; Chukwueze, Giroud, Leao
Newcastle United possible starting lineup:
Pope; Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn; Longstaff, Tonali, Guimaraes; Gordon, Isak, Barnes
We say: AC Milan 2-1 Newcastle United
Milan may have only scraped into the group stage of the Champions League owing to Juventus' 10-point deduction, but the Rossoneri are our slight favourites to open their European campaign with a maximum and spoil Newcastle's San Siro party.
Blessed with much more continental nous than their English foes, Pioli's side - who will welcome Tomori back to the first XI with open arms - ought to find their way past a Newcastle backline susceptible to defensive mishaps, although Howe's men should still give a good account of themselves in Milan.
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