Preview (completed early due to festive commitments)
City travel to the North West for the second fixture of the packed festive period to face Rafa Benítez`s Newcastle United.
The overall record between the two clubs is fairly similar with Newcastle just ahead in terms of victories.
Overall record City W65 D39 L71
However in recent seasons City have been clawing back that difference as the last six results in all competitions shows: – City W4 D1 L1 GF16 GA4
Prior to the weekend of 23/24 Dec Newcastle`s form has been dire. Without a win in the league for over two months they had lost 8 out of the last 9 Premier League matches with only a single point coming away at WBA. This run has seen them drop steadily down the table and into the relegation zone before their weekend game against West Ham at the London Stadium. Given West Ham`s recent improvement under the Moyesiah the Toon Army would surely be making the long trek to the nation`s capital more in hope than expectation of securing a vital three points.
Pep will be well aware that he also faces a trip to an improved team – Crystal Palace – on New Year`s Eve (outstanding planning guys at the Premier League fixture compliers, great work [THUMBS UP]) and so I am expecting some rotation from City`s coach. Pep has hinted at the possibility that John Stones may be close to a return and we may also have Vincent Kompany back after his most recent muscle injury.
On that score a word about the much maligned Elaquim Mangala. Thrust into action following the injuries to Stones and then Kompany he has not disappointed. He may not be as polished as his defensive colleagues but I have sensed both an improvement in his play and his self-belief. He played some passes out of tight situations against Spurs that would have delighted his coach and which give some hope that City may not need to pay over the odds in January for another centre-back. We have witnessed the improvement in John Stones`s game this season after coaching from Guardiola and perhaps there is no reason to suggest that Mangala cannot benefit from the same attention. Either way I have been hugely impressed by the way the young man has set about his task and performed for the team.
With each game as important as the last and just as significant as the next, there will be no let up from Pep Guardiola. He will expect the same commitment and self-belief from his players in each and every game but he has cautioned against the media hype and expectation that City`s winning streak will continue uninterrupted throughout the season. He knows how crowded the Christmas/New schedule is and that it presents a unique challenge to the players to maintain their focus amid the distractions of travel and family commitments. But we also know that he has built up a level of team spirit and developed a work ethic that is second to none in the league as he knows that this can often be the ‘glue` that sustains the challenge for top honours.
It has been a remarkable year for Manchester City Football Club and this match offers an opportunity to push on and move closer to the start of 2018 maintaining the pressure on the chasing pack.
Come on City!!!
Opponent to watch
Matt Richie – leading the Newcastle stats with 5 assists (to 23 Dec) City will need to ensure that they cut off his supply to the Toon forwards.
Famous Newcastle fans:-
Sting – musician
Ant & Dec – TV presenters
Gabby Logan – TV presenter
Cheryl Cole – Pop star & media darling
Brian Blessed – That actor with the BIG BOOMING voice
John McCririck – Racing pundit and generally larger than life character
Alan Shearer – no introduction necessary, Newcastle all time leading scorer. Somewhat hit and miss pundit on BBC MotD.
Jackie Milburn – ‘Our Jackie`, played for Newcastle between 1943-57 scoring 201 goals (second only to Shearer) in 353 appearances and has a stand named after him which pretty much tells you all you need to know about how well regarded he is.
George Heslop – began his career with Newcastle United but never really established himself at St James` Park in his two years with the club. He had three more bit-part years with Everton before joining City in 1965 where he became an integral part of the Blues` all-conquering late sixties team.
Stuart Pearce – While it`s fair to say neither City nor Newcastle had Stuart Pearce at his peak, both clubs enjoyed his time with them as a player. Pearce clocked up 51 appearances in two seasons in the north-east after 12 years sterling service with Nottingham Forest. City were his last club and he skippered the Blues to promotion in 2001/02 before later becoming manager
Joey Barton – Often his own worst enemy for a time, yet Barton clocked up 153 appearances after graduating through the City Academy system. He eventually severed his ties with a move to the Magpies where his four years were no less colourful. Known for his odd outbursts he can clearly be an utter knob but we will always be grateful for him getting himself sent off on 13th May 2012 during THAT game.
Antoine Sibierski – Signed from Lens in 2003 as a long-term replacement for Eyal Berkovic, Sibierski would remain with City for a further three seasons before joining the Magpies for one year. A useful target man with good technical ability, Antoine was good value for both clubs and was a popular figure on Tyneside despite early reservations from supporters
Craig Bellamy – A hugely popular figure during his time with City, Bellamy showed he had matured as a player and proved a terrific signing for Mark Hughes. Who could forget his two goals in the 2009/10 Manchester derby?
The league title win – 11th May 1968 – City were tied at the top of the table with arch rivals Man U*d when they travelled to St James Park to face Newcastle Utd. A hugely entertaining game ended 3-4 and delivered the title to Joe Mercer`s famous team pipping U*d by a single point. LOL
1976 League Cup Final – City won the cup with a 2-1 victory courtesy of Dennis Tuert`s famous overhead kick goal.
Referee – Andre Marriner
Assistants – Scott Ledger; Richard West
Fourth Official – Neil Swarbrick
City will be without long term absentee Mendy and Phil Foden after his ankle ligament injury sustained in the EFL Cup win over Leicester. John Stones and Vincent Kompany may be available.
Newcastle`s only absentee will be J Gamez so no excuses for Rafa about not having a strong squad to pick from.
Potential starting XI, subs & formation
Walker, Otamendi, Kompany, Delph
De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Gundogan
Silva B, Jesus, Sané
Bravo, Mangala, Danilo, Silva D, Sterling, Diaz, Aguero
*subject to the games played 23rd Dec
Newcastle Utd v Manchester City – Match Preview
Preview (completed early due to festive commitments)