The reigning champions arrive at St James’ Park this weekend, and they’ll be out for blood after falling behind Liverpool in the title race.
A potentially daunting challenge awaits Steve Bruce and his players, yet, as dangerous as they are, it’s felt like this Manchester City side can be got at.
They could pass us off the park, cut through our defensive lines and score goals for fun if they turn up and we do not, however their defensive frailties give us a glimmer of hope heading into this one.
Games like this won’t define our season, but put in a display which remotely resembles what we saw on Monday night and it could get ugly.
After big wins over Spurs and Man Utd already this season, let’s hope we’re ‘at it’ against another big six side here. We’ll need to be if we want to come away with anything.
There had been calls for both Almiron and Joelinton to be dropped after their dismal displays at Villa on Monday, but Steve Bruce has all but confirmed they’ll be in his starting line-up when the team sheets are announced come 11.30am on Saturday.
In fairness, both showed signs of progress in wins over West Ham and Bournemouth, yet the misfiring duo showed an alarming lack of quality or confidence at Villa Park – and if we’re to get anything against City, we’ll need to be clinical if and when chances come.
In midfield, you can only presume Isaac Hayden will start, but Bruce must decide whether he sticks with Jonjo Shelvey or recalls Sean Longstaff following his return from a three-game ban. The former could be key in setting us away on the counter, with his passing having the ability to quickly turn defence into attack and set away our outlets in wide areas, however his lack of mobility and tendency to switch off defensively is a real worry when up against the Kevin De Bruyne’s of this world. If Shelvey gives him an inch he’ll take a mile, so Bruce may be tempted to recall Sean Longstaff, who’s work rate and discipline off the ball is far superior to Shelvey’s.
At the back, it seems Emil Krafth has been tipped to replace DeAndre Yedlin – who’ll miss out with a hip problem. Personally, I’d prefer to see Javier Manquillo come in, with him more likely to compete in a foot race with Raheem Sterling, but the fact he’s been out of Bruce’s squad lately suggests to me the Swede will come in. He got torn apart by Sadio Mane and Harvey Barnes in his last two starts, so that area could be a cause for concern for a player still adapting to the pace of this league.
At centre-back, the fact Lejeune wasn’t in the squad last weekend tells me he’ll be on the bench at best for this one, but I do expect Schar to start. Federico Fernandez could then come into the centre of our back five, while I’d expect Ciaran Clark to get the nod over Paul Dummett, with the latter switching off for Villa’s second goal on Monday on his return to the side.
Preferred NUFC XI – (5-2-2-1) – Dubravka – Manquillo, Schar, Fernandez, Clark, Willems – Hayden, S.Longstaff – Almiron, Saint-Maximin – Joelinton.
Here’s a few key men to watch out for in Pep Guardiola’s Man City side:
Kevin De Bruyne – The Belgian star is the best player in the Premier League for me. He’s leading the way with assists (10), bagging almost twice as many as any other player in the league, so must not be given time and space to pull the strings.
Raheem Sterling – With just 1 strike in his last 6 league games, he’s on a lean spell in front of goal, but that won’t last long. His pace, movement and intelligence is second to none as Premier League wingers go, so the he’ll be up against Krafth or Manquill – who’ll be coming in from the cold – is a big worry.
Gabriel Jesus – The Brazilian looks set to get a run in the side following an injury to top scorer Sergio Aguero – and the stats say he scores more often than not when he plays. City fans are backing him to step up in Aguero’s absence, so he’ll be one to watch.
Predicted Man City XI (4-1-2-3): Ederson – Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Mendy – Rodri – D.Siva, De Bruyne – Sterling, Jesus, B.Silva.
DeAndre Yedlin is set to miss out with a hip injury, joining long-term absentees Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie on the sidelines.
Sean Longstaff is back from a ban, however, while Fabian Schar and Florian Lejeune will also be pushing for starts after being declared fit to play by Steve Bruce.
For the visitors, Sergio Aguero has been ruled out – which is a relief given his prolific record against us – while Oleksandr Zinchenko, Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane are long-term absentees.
I do think we’ll score, and back Allan Saint-Maximin to cause them all sorts of problems on the counter, however I don’t see us having much of the ball and worry about how we’ll cope with that if Shelvey’s in midfield and Krafth is coming in from the cold to man-mark Sterling.
I think we’ll need to be even better than we were in that 1-0 win at Spurs to get a result here, with absolutely every player needing to carry out their roles to a tee if we’re to hurt them at both ends of the field.
A part of me fears a hammering, but I’m hoping we at least give them a game in response to Monday’s horror-show.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-3 Man City
Howay the lads!