Manchester City will be hoping to push further up the Premier League table when they lock horns with Newcastle United on Saturday.
Manchester City will have the opportunity to potentially get into the top four when they play hosts to Newcastle United, in the final match of this year’s Boxing Day. The Sky Blues have had a rusty start to the campaign, having picked up just 23 points from their 13 matches, worryingly trailing league leaders Liverpool by eight points.
Manchester City do, however, have a game in hand and a win against Newcastle United could help get back into the top four, although it remains unlikely as five of the top seven clubs also play on the Boxing Day. In addition, ninth-placed Aston Villa, who are currently trailing City by just one point, have a game in hand as well, so a win is imperative for Pep Guardiola’s men to remain in the title race.
Newcastle United, on the other hand, are heading into this game on the back of a three-match winless run in all competitions. They made the headlines in midweek when they were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Championship side Brentford. The Magpies also failed to win their previous two Premier League matches, notably slumping to a 5-2 defeat at the hands of Leeds United.
As a result, Steve Bruce’s men are currently dawdling in mid-table, when they could have easily positioned themselves in the top half of the table. And things won’t get any easier for the Tyneside outfit as they travel to Etihad Stadium to face one of the biggest teams in England this weekend.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at Newcastle’s chances of causing an upset against a Manchester City side looking to extend their winning run to three games in all competitions.
Team News & Tactics
Guardiola only has one injury-related absentee in Eric Garcia. However, key duo Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus have both tested positive for Covid-19, effectively ruling them out of this clash.
Walker’s absence means Joao Cancelo continues at right-back while Benjamin Mendy should replace Oleksandr Zinchenko on the opposite flank. There could be one change in central defence as well, with John Stones coming in for Aymeric Laporte while Zack Steffen should make way for Ederson in between the sticks.
Fernandinho was given a rare opportunity to start in midweek, but might have to settle for a place on the bench. It could pave the way for Ilkay Gundogan to occupy the double-pivot alongside Rodri, with Kevin de Bruyne operating in a little advanced position, replacing Bernardo Silva.
These changes should definitely give Manchester City the creative firepower they need in order to breach the Newcastle United backline. However, Guardiola also needs pacy wingers who can provide a threat on the counter and offer more productivity in the final third.
Phil Foden scored an excellent goal against Arsenal midweek and might just retain his place in the starting lineup, ahead of Riyad Mahrez while Raheem Sterling could be asked to start in a central role, in the absence of Gabriel. Sergio Aguero is another option but is unlikely to be handed a start.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ederson; Cancelo, Dias, Stones, Mendy; Rodri, Gundogan; Foden, de Bruyne, Torres; Sterling
Unlike Manchester City, Newcastle United are missing some of their key players including Jamaal Lascelles and Allan Saint-Maximin, both of whom are recovering from Covid-19. Martin Dubravka should also remain out with a heel injury, though he is nearing his return to the pitch while there are doubts over the involvement of Fabian Schar and Javi Manquillo.
Fortunately for Bruce, Federico Fernandez should be back in contention after missing the midweek fixture. The Argentine should slot right back into the three-man backline alongside Ciaran Clark and Paul Dummett.
The potential absence of Manquillo, on the other hand, makes Emil Krafth a guaranteed starter at right wing-back, ahead of DeAndre Yedlin while Jamal Lewis should continue on the opposite flank.
In midfield, Bruce will have the privilege of starting with his first-choice players including Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden. The ex-Hull City manager also has Sean Longstaff and Jeff Hendrick as potential alternatives in the middle of the park.
Meanwhile, in the attacking department, the absence of Saint-Maximin should once again put the pressure of Miguel Almiron to provide the creative essence going forward. The 26-year-old, however, is more likely to operate in a central midfield role, alongside Shelvey and Hayden.
But, the playmaker will have the freedom of venturing forward and combining with the two forwards in Joelinton and Callum Wilson, both of whom will be keen on breaching the Man City defence on the counter.
Probable Lineup (3-5-1-1): Darlow; Fernandez, Clark, Dummett; Krafth, Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Lewis; Joelinton; Wilson
- Newcastle United Asian Handicap + 2.5 @ 1.750
- Newcastle United Asian Handicap + 1.0 @ 5.250
- Manchester City have won each of their last 11 Premier League home games against Newcastle United, scoring 39 goals and conceding just seven in return. It’s the Cityzens’ longest winning home run against an opponent in their top-flight history.
- Newcastle United haven’t won any of their last 16 away league games against Manchester City, last winning such a game against them in September 2000. Their current run of 11 straight away defeats against them is the longest such losing streak in their league history.
- Manchester City have scored in each of their last 23 Premier League games against Newcastle (61 goals in total) – only Arsenal have had a longer run of scoring in consecutive games against an opponent in the competition (24 vs West Bromwich Albion).
- Manchester City lost their last Boxing Day game in the Premier League, 1-2 against Leicester City in 2018. They’ve not lost consecutive such matches since a run of three between 2003 to 2005.
- Newcastle have lost each of their last five Boxing Day games in the league, since a 5-1 win over Stoke City in 2013. Indeed, in the Premier League, the Magpies have lost more Boxing Day games (14) and conceded more Boxing Day goals (42) than any other side in the competition.
Player to Watch
Although it remains unlikely that Sergio Aguero will be given the nod in the Manchester City starting lineup this weekend, the Argentine has steadily improved his fitness in recent weeks. He even made a 74th-minute substitute appearance in the 4-1 win over Arsenal in midweek and one can expect the striker to once again feature as a sub against Newcastle United.
In a game where the Magpies are likely to sit deep and make it difficult for the opposition to create clear cut opportunities, taking chances will be important for the Manchester City attackers. That is something where Aguero could become useful, given his proven track record and outstanding scoring tally in the Premier League.
Therefore, it won’t be surprising to see Guardiola bringing Aguero on in the second half to add more firepower to his attacking arsenal, especially if his side fails to break the deadlock in the first 45 minutes.
Manchester City 2-0 Newcastle United
Newcastle United have an awful record against Manchester City, and although past records matter very little in these crunch encounters, the Magpies do have a host of issues to deal with heading into this fixture.
The confidence is already low following the Carabao Cup elimination while a depleted defensive unit is not something Bruce would have dreamed of when facing the mighty Manchester City attack. So we are expecting the hosts to seal a rather comfortable 2-0 victory at the Etihad this weekend.