Eddie Howe has admitted Newcastle will need two XIs of equal quality to cope with the rigours of European football next season.
The Magpies secured a Europa League campaign at worst with Thursday night’s 4-1 Premier League victory over Brighton, and will play in the Champions League if they win one of their two remaining games of the current campaign, which continues with struggling Leicester’s trip to St James’ Park on Monday.
Asked what that would mean for the summer transfer window, Howe, who has been allowed to spend in excess of £250million to date, replied: “It’s a good question. We need to figure that out.
“If you have a strong squad, rotation will be important. Rotation is going to be important, utilising the whole squad is going to be important.
“We haven’t felt the necessity to necessarily do that on a consistent basis because we’ve been in one competition – of course, we had the cup run. We have rotated to a degree, but maybe not in the numbers that we might need to next year.
“If you’re going to do that, then the squad needs to be strong enough, so if you put out two XIs, they’re of equal strength.”
The strength of Howe’s current squad could be put to the test on Monday evening with his midfield resources stretched severely in the aftermath of an energy-sapping clash with the Seagulls.
Joe Willock was helped from the pitch in some discomfort with a hamstring injury which the Magpies fear will end his season with two games to go, while Bruno Guimaraes has been nursing a persistent ankle problem in recent months.
Howe said as he conducted his pre-match press conference: “Today I’ll be going straight to the physio room, to be honest, after this to see how everybody is. We’ve got a few concerns.
“The lads gave so much yesterday to the game, they’ve given a lot to the season physically and I just hope there’s no serious effects.
“It looks like Joe Willock may be in trouble with his hamstring – we might lose him for the season, but that’s unclear as I sit here now. Fingers crossed our team will still be strong.”
Even redoubtable Brazilian Joelinton is feeling the effects of a gruelling campaign after running himself into the ground in the club’s cause.
Howe, who is not anticipating having either Sean Longstaff or Jacob Murphy back available to face the Foxes, said: “He’s a machine. He’d literally – it’s a well-used phrase in football – run through a brick wall for the team, the club and I think he does every game.
“He succumbed to that brick wall last night, it seemed to hurt him, but we hope he’s okay. He’s just been incredible for us this year.”