After a week full of takeover talk following Tuesday’s crushing Announcement from Mike Ashley, it would’ve been easy to forget that we have a game to play this weekend!
Despite all the off-field distractions, we must remember that there’s still a relegation battle to be won out on that pitch – however I suspect today’s trip to Manchester City won’t define whether we stay up or not this season!
Prior to last weekend’s entertaining defeat at Anfield, City had looked (and were) unbeatable in the league this season. Liverpool’s 4-3 win was the first time they’ve lost this season, and although that game highlighted the odd frailty (John Stones didn’t look great and Liverpool scored 4), this result will only make them a more frightening prospect to face today. They’ll be a wounded animal ready to get back on track and I fully expect them to come at us all guns blazing. A scary prospect..
How we approach this one will be interesting. The defensive display at St James’ in the reverse fixture just last month was brandished ‘the most negative first half performance I’ve ever seen’ by Gary Neville, yet we’ve seen time and time again this season that you’ll get hammered if you go toe to toe with this incredibly destructive Man City side.
It sounds negative and as if I’m resigned to our fate already, but I honestly go into this one with a damage limitation mindset to begin with. If we nicked an early goal and went in at the break in a decent position then you never know, we could just come away with a point, but my initial thoughts are just hoping it’s not a cricket score – which would be very harmful to our currently decent goal difference in the long run.
I fully expect Rafa to change his system and go with a side that might be best suited to containing City and hitting them on the counter.
I normally post this in the ‘predicted XI’ section of my previews, but here is the team I’d like to see Rafa play today:
NUFC XI (5-2-2-1): Darlow – Manquillo, Dummett, Clark, Lascelles, Yedlin – Diame, Merino – Murphy, Atsu – Joselu:
In midfield I’d go for big Mo and Merino. He’s been slated earlier on in the season, but Diame has probably been our best performer in midfield in over the past month. He’s put himself about, won tackles and broke up the play. Alongside him, I think I’d rather have Merino than Shelvey. We need to keep the ball and be clever with it when we get it. Merino has surprising skill and can run with the ball – I fancy him to be better defensively and more efficient on the break than Jonjo.
Up top, I’d like the pace of Atsu and Murphy either side of Joselu – who may be essential if we’re to hold the ball up top and win any knockdowns. Murphy and Atsu proved at Stoke that they can cause problems on the counter, however their final ball will have to be bang on tonight if we’re going to make us of the odd chance we’ll get on the break. Ritchie and Gayle will be in the running to start, but both looked badly out of sorts against Swansea.
It could be a totally different side, but this is what I’d like to see Rafa go with!
City’s plethora of attacking talent is devastating, with so many of their stars delivering this season.
De Bruyne and Silva will look to hurt us from central areas, with both possessing ridiculous vision and guile (as the former showed in the reverse fixture last month), whilst Sterling and Sane out wide likely to offer an ever present out ball and goal threat in behind (as Sterling showed with his goal at St James’).
Up top it’ll more than likely be Sergio Aguero – the man who has SEVEN goals in his last four games against NUFC..
Newcastle – 15th (23 pts) – Last 5 in the league – Won: 2 / Drawn: 2 / Lost: 1
Man City – 1st – (62 pts) – Last 5 in the league / Won: 3 / Drawn: 1 / Lost: 1
Dwight Gayle is facing a late fitness test after picking up a knock against Swansea, however Aleksandar Mitrovic is back in contention after recovering from a back injury.
Florian Lejeune is back in training but is rated doubtful with a foot injury. Jesus Gamez remains out.
For City, David Silva is expected to return after missing their 4-3 defeat at Liverpool last time out.
Vincent Kompany is out, while Fabian Delph is also set to miss out at left-back.
Newcastle XI – (4-2-3-1) – Darlow– Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett – Merino, Diame – Ritchie, Perez, Atsu – Joselu
Man City XI – (4-3-3) – Ederson – Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Danillo – De Bruyne, Fernandinho, D. Silva – Sterling, Aguro, Sane.
Our last league outings at the Etihad – 6-1, 5-1, 4-0 and 4-0 defeats. The last time we won at the Etihad was in a 2-0 League Cup win IN 2014 thanks to goals from Rolando Aarons and Moussa Sissoko.
There’s been an argument recently that the only way to stop City is to give as good as you get, have a go and unsettle them. Burnley and Bristol City did that recently in patches and had real success at times (although both ended up losing!), so I do think that we should look to unsettle them at the back and not sit in quite as much as we did at St James’.
The key will still be to get men behind the ball and counter as quickly and effectively as possible, but I just don’t see either working well enough. This City side are ridiculously good and they’ll be a wounded animal that’s ready to strike back after losing their first league game of the season last time out.
The last four of our league trips to the Etihad have been emphatic, and I don’t see this one being any different unfortunately. Not because we’ll be woeful, but because I expect them to be so good.
Prediction: Man City 4-1 Newcastle
Howay the lads!