Another tough test awaits this new-look Newcastle United, with last weekend’s meeting with Liverpool now followed by an equally tough trip to Man City!
Pep Guardiola’s side arrive on the back of truly devastating defeat on Wednesday night, where they threw away a late lead and lost in extra time to be dumped out of the Champions League semi final stages by Real Madrid.
It was a gruelling 120 minutes in the end and a complete and utter collapse that will have taken a lot out of them both mentally and physically.
But, with the Premier League title now the only piece of silverware on their minds now the Champions League dream is dead for another season, will Newcastle come up against a battered and bruised Man City or a wounded animal ready to get back on track?
Personally, I fear it’ll be the latter, meaning we’ll have to be at our very best to stand any chance of returning to Tyneside with an unlikely result.
We’ll also have to learn from last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool – a game which saw us struggle to create, lose the midfield battle convincingly and come away fortunate to have conceded just one.
These are free hits for Eddie Howe in some respects, however it’s also a good test of how far we’ve come – and where we want to go in the future – as we take on against Europe’s elite for the second week running.
Fabian Schar is facing a late fitness test after failing to train all week (as of Friday), meaning Jamaal Lascelles could well return.
Callum Wilson is expected to return to the squad for the first time in 2022 after training all week, however it remains to be seen if Kieran Trippier will feature – as Howe says he’s slightly behind our number nine in his comeback from injury.
Elsewhere, Ryan Fraser looks set to miss out again with a hamstring problem that could keep him out for the remainder of the season.
For the hosts, Kyle Walker and John Stones could miss out at the back, with the former picking up an ankle injury in their UCL defeat to Real Madrid in midweek.
Predicted line ups
(4-3-3): Dubravka – Krafth, Lascelles, Burn, Targett – Guimaraes, Shelvey, Willock – Almiron, Joelinton, Murphy.
OUT: Fabian Schar and Allan Saint-Maximin – IN: Jamaal Lascelles and Jacob Murphy.
As Schar hadn’t trained all week when Howe spoke to the press on Friday morning, it feels unlikely that he’s risked against the league leaders.
With that in mind, it seems Lascelles could return to the side. It’s not a game that’d suit him and I do wonder if we’d move to a three-man defence – which would see Krafth or Dummett come in at centre-backs – however Howe could be bold and stand by his favoured formation.
Elsewhere, the risk-reward of starting Saint-Maximin against Liverpool didn’t quite pay off. Not only that, he’s caused some unwanted drama by suggesting in a recent interview that he’d have much more assists if he was playing with better players. Howe didn’t seem too enamoured by that – even if some of his comments were taken out of context – so I could see Murphy replacing him for this one.
The former Norwich man is more limited offensively than ASM, but his ability to work back and still offer some pace and drive on the break could appeal to Howe.
Predicted Man City XI (4-3-3): Ederson – Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko – Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne – Sterling, Jesus, Grealish.
Being brutally honest, I think we might be on the end of some Man City backlash.
They might have bottled their Champions League semi final a few days ago, but they are closing in on their fourth Premier League title in the last five seasons and will be a wounded animal desperate to get back on track after Wednesday’s heartbreak.
A grim prediction for anyone travelling to Manchester for this one, but I think this will be a one-sided affair that sees us spend huge periods without the ball and on the back foot!
Prediction: Man City 3-0 Newcastle