After securing qualification for the knock out stages of the Champions League for a seventh successive season in midweek, attention turns to a trip to Tyneside on Saturday afternoon in the first of three Premier League fixtures in the next week.
After a disastrous few weeks on the injury front, the words ‘normal situation‘ will certainly please Manchester City supporters. But, Pep Guardiola will be without star striker Sergio Aguero, who has been directly involved in 11 goals in 12 games in the league so far this season. The Argentine suffered a thigh injury during the second half of last Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Chelsea.
The Blues will remain without longterm absentees Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane due to their respective knee injuries, though french defender Laporte is expected to be back in contention to play in mid-January. Oleksandr Zinchenko also remains sidelined.
Bernardo Silva returns to the City squad after completing a one match suspension as part of his punishment for a misconduct charge in relation to a tweet earlier in the season.
Steve Bruce will have defenders Fabien Schar and Florian Lejeune available for selection after they recover from injuries, but won’t have DeAndre Yedlin or Matt Ritchie available.
HEAD TO HEAD
Manchester City will be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats at Newcastle for the first time since 2003, having had a 22 match winning run against the Magpies ended in late January, in a 2-1 defeat. This will be the 180th game between the two sides in which City have won 68 games, drawn 39 and lost 72, but have won 20 of the last 24 games.
The defeat to Newcastle last season was a pretty monumental turning point in the Premier League title race at which point, most wrote off Manchester City’s chances of retaining the Premier League title after they fell to a 4th league defeat in nine games. Could a positive result tomorrow offer the chance of another turning point?
City have won four of their last five league games, but struggled in the Champions League on Tuesday, where they slumped to a 1-1 draw against Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk – despite coming out on top against Chelsea in what was an enthralling encounter. Riyad Mahrez’s classy solo effort in the latter stages of the first-half was ultimately the difference, as the Algerian made ten goal involvements in his last 11 starts.
Newcastle sit 14th in the table, just two points off Manchester United and Spurs, but have only won twice in their past five league games and lost 2-0 away to Aston Villa on Monday night. Steve Bruce is unbeaten at home since a defeat to Arsenal in the first game of the season and will be excited by the potential to beat both Manchester based clubs at home in the same season since 1986/87.
Pep Guardiola will likely make several changes to the side that played in the week, but will play with his usual 4-3-3 formation with two of his three wingers starting either side of Gabriel Jesus, unless the Catalan coach has something different in mind. Newcastle frustrated City in both fixtures last season when Rafa Benitez set up extremely defensively with a 5-4-1 tactic, where they only had 23% of the ball and registered just 239 passes – over three times less than City did in the game. It is therefore inevitable that Newcastle will look to tactically be defensive, while City will need to be smart and hope to break them down.
Manchester’s very own Chris Kavanagh will take charge of his first ever Manchester City game on Saturday lunch time, having joined the PGMOL’s Select Group One for the 2017/18 season. It will be the referee’s 50th Premier League match, and he will be joined by Sian Massey-Ellis and Gary Beswick for the occasion. Oliver Langford is the fourth official, while at Stockley Park for the second game running, Andre Marriner is the VAR with Andy Halliday as AVAR.
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