Newcastle’s return to the Champions League after a 20-year absence resulted in a draw against Leicester, hinting at potential future encounters in Madrid, Munich, or Milan.

Eddie Howe found satisfaction in the stalemate, as it showcased remarkable progress over the past 18 months. Previously at the bottom of the league upon taking charge, Newcastle now stands shoulder to shoulder with Europe’s top teams. While a draw may set up a rematch with Leicester next season, their destiny remains uncertain.

Leicester finished three places below Newcastle last year and currently lag 15 positions behind them. This dramatic turnaround owes much to intelligent recruitment, excellent coaching, and, albeit controversially, the financial backing of Newcastle’s Saudi owners. The injection of approximately £250 million has been largely well-spent, although around half of the starting lineup consists of players inherited by Howe, who were unable to secure a win in the initial three months of the previous season. Many of these players have since developed beyond recognition, contributing to the team’s success. Newcastle aimed to qualify for European competition this season, with even a Conference League spot seen as a triumph. However, they have now surpassed expectations, vaulting back into the Champions League.

This remarkable achievement by Howe, whose last full managerial season saw Bournemouth relegated to the Championship, may also find favor with the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which owns 80 percent of Newcastle. During a halftime shootout, their powerbrokers, Jamie Reuben and Mehrdad Ghodoussi, were applauded for their contributions. However, the players struggled to find the finishing touch, hitting the woodwork three times.

Leicester’s fate is no longer in their hands, but they cling to a glimmer of hope. If they defeat West Ham and Everton fail to win, they will survive. Despite Brendan Rodgers twice guiding them to fifth-place finishes during seasons when Leicester spent much time in the top four, they were unable to replicate that success. In contrast, Newcastle has seen the job through.

The scoreline and venue seem fitting considering Newcastle’s strong home record. Only Liverpool and Arsenal have emerged victorious at St James’ Park this season, with only four clubs triumphing there under Howe’s management. Consistency, especially during a period surrounding the World Cup, propelled them to a top-four finish. At one point, their 17-game unbeaten run stood as the longest such streak in any of Europe’s top five leagues. With only a few Premier League losses, fewer than Manchester City, Newcastle recognizes the value of a draw in the league standings. Their resilience, reliability, and determination allowed them to grind out crucial points.

While clean sheets were abundant in the first half of the season, they have become scarce in recent times. However, a superb injury-time save from Nick Pope denied Timothy Castagne and spared Newcastle from defeat, relieving them of anxiety heading into the final day against Chelsea. Two scoring bursts, courtesy of Miguel Almiron in autumn and Callum Wilson in recent weeks, have been instrumental to their success.

Surprisingly, Wilson had an off night, unable to find the back of the net. Leicester managed their first clean sheet in six months, benefiting from Newcastle’s misfortune in front of goal. The Magpies had two close calls just before halftime, with Wilson striking the post and heading an effort cleared off the line by Wilfred Ndidi. Additionally, Almiron’s half-volley struck the post, and Alexander Isak missed a glaring opportunity. Bruno Guimaraes’ header against the post from a yard out, resulting from Wout Faes inadvertently flicking on Kieran Trippier’s corner, further frustrated Newcastle. Leicester felt that Guimaraes should have been sent off earlier for a challenge on