At a time when we could really do with our first three points of the season, a trip to face one of Europe’s most feared sides (and this year’s favourites for the Champions League) in Manchester City is far from ideal.
City’s immaculate start to the season was halted last Saturday after a 1-1 draw at Wolves, so that combined with the absence of Kevin De Bruyne could give us hope, although I’m expecting a real backs to the wall game.
Anyone who didn’t like our ‘negative’ approach to the Chelsea game can expect more of the same. I’m expecting 10 behind the ball and Rondon as our outlet on the break – however it would be nice if we can get one or two up in support of him when the chances arrive.
More of a 5-2-3 opposed to a 5-4-1 may be wise for this one? I’m not suggestive we give City as good as we get (going toe to toe would mean for a massacre), but we need to show a little more ambition on the ball and can’t leave Rondon quite so isolated.
Lascelles is back, but being without Shelvey and Ritchie will reduce our already slim chances. The former is the one player who could set us up on the counter with some cutting long passes, and the latter is a workhorse and someone you’d expect to follow Rafa’s tactical plan to the letter far better than the likes of Atsu or Murphy.
Sergio Aguero has scored EIGHT goals in his last two home matches against us (and 14 goals in his 11 league appearances against Newcastle). That stat says a lot about who the main danger man may be tomorrow, but there’s so much more to city with Sterling, both Silva’s, high flying wingers (Sterling/Sane/Mahrez) and marauding full backs in Mendy and Walker all to watch out for offesively.
Here’s the team I’d like to see, followed by the side I expect Rafa to go with:
As highlighted earlier, I’d prefer to see more of a 5-2-3 opposed to a 5-4-1, meaning our wingers (likely to be Kenedy and Murphy) are slightly higher up and able to support Rondon in attack as and when we get the ball.
With Shelvey out and Hayden banned I can’t see beyond a Ki and Diame partnership, and Lascelles is almost certain to return in defence after recovering from an ankle problem.
I can see him coming in for Schar. Fernandez was our stand out player against Chelsea and looked a very good communicator too, and Clark has been an ever present so far this season, so Schar may be nudged out the team after a poor showing against Forest on Wednesday.
Dubravka will return in net and you’d think he’ll have to have a blinder if we’re to come away from this one with a result.
Predicted NUFC XI – (5-4-1) – Dubravka– Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Clark, Dummett – Murphy, Diame, Ki, Kenedy – Rondon
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in the City squad:
Sergio Aguero – Eight goals in his last two home matches against Newcastle and a hat-trick in his last game at the Etihad..
Benjamin Mendy – Already has several assists this season. Powerful, a brilliant crosser and someone our right winger/Yedlin will have to keep a real close eye on as he bombs forward.
Raheem Sterling – Picks up some great position in and around the box. May not have looked his best for England during the World Cup, but regularly finds the net in a City shirt.
Bernardo Silva – Has been in superb form for City over pre-season and has taken that into the first few weeks of this season. He and David Silva will pull the strings and look to unlock our banks of four and five.
Predicted Man Cuity XI – (4-1-2-3) Ederson – Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Mendy – Fernandinho – Gundogan, D. Silva – Sterling, Aguero, B.Silva.
Rafa Benitez has confirmed that Jamaal Lascelles is back, however Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie have both been ruled out.
Isaac Hayden is out once again following a three-game ban but Kenedy is available after missing the last league game vs parent club Chelsea.
For City, the only notable absentee is Kevin De Bruyne following a recent knee injury.
A City fan told me this week that the only way to get a result is to have a go, but finding the balance is so difficult – especially when we don’t quite have the personnel to really hurt them at the top of the pitch.
Sit deep and look to ‘stay in it’ and they’ll pick us off. Go for it and we may score, but we’ll almost certainly be outscored.
I see us camping in our own half, trying to use Rondon and Murphy/Kenedy on the counter from time to time, but ultimately being undone. They’ve got bundles of quality and are relentless.
Prediction: Man City 3-0 Newcastle
Howay the lads!