Manchester City will be aiming to continue heaping the pressure on league leaders Liverpool when they face Newcastle United at St. James’ Park on Tuesday.
Premier League football resumed this midweek after a ten-day gap, with Gameweek 24 of the 2018-19 season. One of the six games on show on Tuesday will be David vs Goliath clash as Newcastle United play hosts to Manchester City at St. James’ Park, in need of a miracle to stop the champions.
The results have been mixed for Newcastle lately in the Premier League. While the Magpies have lost the games they are supposed to, against the bigwigs, they have started taking points off the rest of the sides (two wins and as many draws in four such matches over the last six weeks).
But, Rafa Benitez’s men are coming off a disappointing 2-0 loss to Watford in the FA Cup, a home defeat that has left the fans deflated. Manchester City, on the other hand, saw off their opponents in the cup competition last weekend, and quite comfortably so, comfortably beating Burnley 5-0.
In all competitions, the Premier League champions have been on a splendid run since being beaten in back-to-back games by Crystal Palace and Leicester City. Pep Guardiola’s men have won the subsequent eight games, including a crucial success against Liverpool, scoring a staggering 33 goals and conceding just two.
The reverse fixture, played at Etihad back in September last year, was surprisingly a closely contested affair, with Manchester City beating Newcastle 2-1. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Rafa Benitez has a gamut of roster issues to deal with before the visit of Manchester City. On Tuesday, the Newcastle United boss is likely to be without as many as seven first-team players due to injuries or other issues.
The other issue is namely Yoshinori Muto’s absence due to his participation at the ongoing AFC Asian Cup with Japan. In addition to the 26-year-old, the likes of Joselu (ankle), Ki Sung-yueng (hamstring), Jonjo Shelvey (thigh), Mohamed Diame (hip) and Karl Darlow (elbow) will certainly miss out, while Paul Dummett (hamstring) is a doubt.
The injuries to key personnel in midfield is particularly a concern, with Benitez left with Isaac Hayden as the only senior central midfielder at his disposal. The lengthy health bill in the department has forced the Newcastle manager to fall back upon academy graduate Sean Longstaff in recent weeks.
Hayden and Longstaff are bound to form the central defensive partnership once again on Tuesday, with Christian Atsu and Ayoze Perez likely being the wide midfielders. Perez and Atsu though, will take up central positions in the final third, behind Salomon Rondon while also supporting Hayden and Longstaff when off the ball.
The five-man defence has largely borne fruit so far for Benitez, and there is no reason to deflect from the tactics, especially considering Newcastle will spend a majority of the time chasing the ball. Killing off as much space as possible at the back thus, makes sense.
To that end, Fabian Schar, Florian Lejeune and captain Jamaal Lascelles should be the central defenders, with DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Ritchie being the full-backs. The two full-backs will also be responsible for providing the width and supplying the crosses for Rondon whenever Newcastle bomb forward. Martin Dubravka ought to be a busy man in goal.
Probable Lineup (5-4-1): Dubravka; Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Lejeune, Ritchie; Perez, Hayden, Longstaff, Atsu; Rondon
Pep Guardiola barely has any pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations for the trip up north to take on Newcastle United. On Tuesday, the Manchester City boss will only be without three first-team players.
Vincent Kompany (muscle injury) and Claudio Bravo (Achilles) are long-term absentees, while Benjamin Mendy ought to return soon after complaining of a swollen knee following his comeback from injury at Burton Albion.
Mendy is unlikely to start on Tuesday, meaning Oleksandr Zinchenko should deputize for him at left-back, with Danilo starting each of the last four games. On the opposite flank, Kyle Walker should continue, while Aymeric Laporte will likely partner Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of the Manchester City defence.
In midfield, Guardiola has all of his personnel available to him, meaning he can continue to rotate amid a gruelling schedule. While David Silva and Fernandinho are poised to start, the final spot is a toss-up between Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
Considering De Bruyne was the only one among the three who was taken off against Burnley last weekend, it looks likely that the Belgian will reunite the preferred midfield partnership. Meanwhile, the front trio pick themselves, with Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane set to return.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, David Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sane
- Manchester City are unbeaten in 22 Premier League matches against Newcastle United (W19 D3), their longest such run against any side in the competition.
- Newcastle have lost all eight of their league games this season against the ‘Big Six’ sides, although all but two of those defeats were by a single-goal margin.
- Newcastle have won four of their last six home Premier League matches against sides starting the day in the top two, only losing against Arsenal in December 2013 and Manchester City in December 2017.
- Victory would ensure Pep Guardiola breaks the record for most wins by a manager in their first 100 Premier League games. He is currently tied with Jose Mourinho, having won 73 of his 99 matches so far (D15 L11).
- Sergio Aguero has scored 14 goals in his 12 Premier League appearances against Newcastle – more than any player has scored against an opponent for a single club in the competition’s history.
Player to Watch
Manchester City are the resounding favourites to win on Tuesday, plain and simple. But, oftentimes, the results are also determined by the fighting spirit shown by the supposed pushovers, and if Newcastle are to spring a surprise against the Premier League champions, they will invariably look towards captain Jamaal Lascelles.
The 25-year-old has already impressed big name clubs in England, with his performances at the heart of the Newcastle defence. Another such exploit on Tuesday could well seal a big ticket move to a prominent name in English football. For now, getting a shock result against City remains the primary objective.
Newcastle United 0-2 Manchester City
Newcastle United have created a name for themselves for being one of the most resilient sides in Premier League football, when it comes to facing up against the biggest of sides. Such an outlook have helped them boast the best defensive record in the bottom half of the table, and the sixth best across the division.
Manchester City though, are a different kettle of fish, particularly in the form they are approaching the game with. The Premier League champions are currently scoring goals for fun, and the Magpies could be in for a rout themselves on Tuesday.
Expect the hosts to barely put up a fight, although Manchester City are unlikely to score as many goals as they have in recent games. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 win for Pep Guardiola & co. in the manager’s 100th league game in-charge of the champions, helping them close the gap on Liverpool to one point.