A big Merry Christmas to all our followers and anyone reading this pre-match piece as a first-time visitor!
It may not be the same this year, but some form of normal service could be resumed come 10pm today….and by that I mean an absolute hammering at the hands of Man City!
After looking second best throughout against West Brom, Leeds and Fulham, then being dumped out of the cup by a second tier side fielding their second team, it’s fair to say every single Newcastle United fan is fearing a Boxing Day bashing against Guardiola’s Sky Blues.
We can only hope for a reaction, but where was the reaction against Fulham after being hammered at Leeds? And where was the fight to make a cup semi-final at Brentford in midweek?
Alarm bells have been ringing for some time when it comes to Steve Bruce’s inability to get any sort of tune out of this talented yet underperforming NUFC side, but things have reached a new low recently.
He’s ran out of luck, his head is on the chopping block and the players looks about as lost and despondent as the fed up NUFC fans sat watching on their sofas.
Bruce’s shortcomings are now being seriously exposed and our season is beginning to unravel, with things threatening to get seriously ugly as Man City, Liverpool and Leicester await in our next three.
Jamaal Lascelles has been spotted back in light training this week, but he and Allan Saint-Maximin look set to miss out once again.
Federico Fernandez could also return after missing the Brentford los with ‘fatigue’, while fellow defenders Fabian Schar and Javier Manquillo were also spotted back in training for the first time in weeks on Thursday.
Bruce says Martin Dubravka could return ‘next week’ and has hinted that Callum Wilson and Ciaran Clark may need a rest at some point soon after playing four games in 10 days on the back of recent injuries.
For Man City, striker Gabriel Jesus and right-back Kyle Walker have been ruled out after testing positive for Covid-19.
Predicted line up
(5-4-1): Darlow – Murphy, Fernandez, Clark, Dummett, Ritchie – Fraser, Hendrick, Hayden, Joelinton – Gayle.
OUT – Yedlin, Lewis, Shelvey, S Longstaff, Almiron, Wilson.
IN – Dummett, Fernandez, Ritchie, Hendrick, Joelinton, Gayle.
With Bruce needing some sort of response from that unacceptable display in midweek, I’m pretty sure he’ll go for fresh legs and hard workers here.
Darlow to continue in goal with Dubravka not yet ready, Ritchie to return at left wing-back to take a struggling Lewis out of the firing line and a return to a five-man defence, with Dummett filling in at centre-back and Fernandez coming back in alongside Clark.
At right wing-back, Yedlin seems unlikely to play three games in 7 days after so long without a start all season, Manquillo has only just returned to training and Krafth isn’t a wing-back, so I can see Murphy playing here. He’s quick enough to cause problems the odd time we counter and is one of few in our side who may be able to stay with Raheem Sterling!
In midfield, Dummett and Fernandez’s likely return in defence could allow Hayden to come back into a midfield that’s missed his ability to get into tackles and cover ground. It’s uninspiring, but Hendrick hasn’t started our last few and both Shelvey and Sean Longstaff have looked way off it, so I can see the Irishman getting a game here.
Out wide, Fraser was taken off with time to spare against Brentford and didn’t start against Fulham, so his pace, energy and quality on the counter could give City something to think about.
On the other wing, I think Joelinton will come back in. Almiron’s pace on the break and work rate could’ve made him ideal for this game, but he was anonymous at Brentford so could well make way.
Up top, I think this may be the game we see Wilson get a well deserved rest. After all, FIVE starts in 13 days is asking for trouble. Carroll will be knocking on Bruce’s door, but he’s not mobile enough to cause City any problems when we’ll be relying on the odd counter attack, meaning Gayle may get his first start since that winning goal vs West Brom.
Here’s a few ones to watch in Pep Guardiola’s City side:
Kevin De Bruyne – The best player in the Premier League for me. Whether it’s cutting crosses that bamboozle entire back lines, through balls no one else is able to spot, bursts through the lines that can’t be tamed or his uncanny ability to find space, the bronze-haired Belgian is unstoppable on his day and could find Waldo with that wand of a right foot.
Raheem Sterling – Right-back is our problem position and the England winger has been back in the goals in recent weeks. His movement could test an Emil Krafth lacking in pace or a Jacob Murphy who’s still learning as a wing-back.
Riyad Mahrez – Considering how much Jamaal Lewis has been struggling, the devastating dribbler that is Riyad Mahrez could run rings around him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lewis is taken out of the side for this one, but the alternatives are
Predicted Man City XI: (4-1-2-3): Ederson – Cancelo, Stones, Dias, Mendy – Rodri – De Bruyne, Gundogan – Mahrez, Torres, Sterling.
Forgive me for my pessimism, but I’m expecting nothing other than a one-sided onslaught here.
I would say we might just respond to a trio of abysmal displays, yet that’s exactly what I told myself before our last two….and look how they ended up!
Instead, I fully expect Bruce to revert back to a five-man defence, put 11 behind the ball and hope for the best.
Hoping for a Christmas miracle. Fearing an absolute hammering.
Prediction: Man City 4-0 Newcastle