Manchester City are back in action at the Etihad against Newcastle United this weekend (Sunday 8 May) with kick-off at 16.30 (BST). Pep Guardiola's men beat the Magpies 4-0 at St. James' Park back in December but with a new look Newcastle team, this fixture is a different challenge altogether.
City are coming into this game with worries on multiple fronts. John Stones is expected to be out after not featuring (even on the bench) against Real Madrid, and Kyle Walker's ankle caused him to be substituted after 60 or so minutes in Spain mid-week. That game marked Walker's return to action after a nasty injury on the Blues' previous trip to Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals – but whilst unconfirmed, he is surely going to miss this one.
Rodri reported feeling unwell during the midweek clash (let's face it, who didn't?) and was subbed off after 99 minutes, but City will be hoping he's fit and fighting, especially after finding the net in his last two league outings.
Joao Cancelo will surely be staying at right-back, with Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte making up the middle of defence and Oleksandr Zinchenko on the left, after a strong showing in recent weeks. You'd expect the first choice midfield of Rodri holding with Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne ahead (his midweek sub was 'tactical' according to Guardiola). However, the front three could be made up of anyone. I'd personally like to see Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling flanking Phil Foden in the middle, but it's really anyone's guess in this week's round of Pep Roulette.
Predicted XI: Ederson; Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo; Sterling, Foden, Grealish.
League position: 1st (at time of writing)
Top scorer: Mahrez (24 in all comps)
Previous result: L 3-1 vs Real Madrid (A)
After the chaos of their Champions League exit on Wednesday, City must pull together and return to form in the Premier League. That 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid will be poured over in every aspect in the pre-match analysis of this game, but City must double down their efforts to keep their crown. For 89 minutes, City were in perfect control the other night – whilst Madrid broke free a few times, City restricted them to shots off target until those late, crushing blows from Rodrygo.
Whilst the manager may say that City "can't forget" what happened in midweek, we as fans should. They are in fantastic Premier League form, having scored 12 goals to 2 in their last three league fixtures. The team have been controlling, aggressive and simply have not let up, even in the cauldron of Elland Road or the nervous nature in the Etihad against tricky outfit Brighton a few weeks ago.
City's recent run has been one of dominance in games. 60% possession against Leeds, 74% against Watford, 66% against Brighton, and it should be a similar story against Newcastle, too. City simply have to bully these mid to lower table teams and opponents will be prepared for it, but it's not like these sorts of teams haven't caused City scares. After all, only picking up three points out of 12 in the four games against Crystal Palace and Southampton this season is a huge disappointment, but City cannot afford to slip up – however hard Cancelo tried to hark back to 2013/14's most famous moment last weekend! This game and the three after it are must-win. Win every game and City are champions. It's the mantra Guardiola has been repeating recently, and we all must stick to it. The manager made an impassioned speech in the pre-match presser, where he spoke at real length about the emotional impact of the loss midweek, his permanent starvation for success at both the domestic and European level and looking to the future – wanting to go further in all competitions. It was a sublime defence of the club that Guardiola has clearly fallen in love with, and hopefully, that love means a much longer stay at the Etihad. I think I can speak for us all at City Report in saying a lifetime contract would be very welcome indeed.
"We recover, we're better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today. It's football. We have a big challenging two weeks, especially this week where we have the [Premier League] season in our hands."
League position: 13th (at time of writing)
Top scorer: Callum Wilson (6 in all comps)
Previous result: L 1-0 Liverpool (H)
It may have taken a long time to get going under Eddie Howe and some new players in January, but Newcastle United are flying high in the second half of this season. The mood on Tyneside has been one of real positivity since the takeover in October. With the Geordie club proving tough competition for any team in the league, and their safety guaranteed, City will be facing a team packed with confidence on Sunday.
Whilst their previous result is a loss, a 1-0 loss to Liverpool, especially after four straight wins, is no bad feat. Eddie Howe has his team well-drilled, gelled and looking solid. Built on his principles of forward-thinking football, winning the ball back quickly, and freedom in attack – especially with the mercurial talent of Allan Saint-Maximin, Newcastle are not to be taken lightly.
Saint-Maximin is a genuinely elite talent in my eyes, averaging 3.92 shot-creating actions per 90 and his dribbles completed (4.63 p90) putting him in the top percentile of players too. But really, Howe has worked magic on the Brazilian Joelinton, turning the misfiring striker back into a goalscorer with midfield capabilities, alongside his compatriot Bruno Guimaraes, who's not only added goals but a silkiness to the Magpies' midfield. If you ask me, he's the best Bruno in the league.
However, it is just City's luck that first-choice striker and top scorer for Newcastle, Callum Wilson is likely to make his return this weekend after four months out. Six goals in 14 starts this season, most of which were before Howe's arrival, is great news for Newcastle. Kieran Trippier and Fabian Schar, key pillars of their defence, will be subject to late calls on their fitness after returning to training this week. With this in mind, I'd guess their XI won't be too different from the one against Liverpool last weekend – meaning a reunion of sorts between old teammates Jack Grealish and on-loan Newcastle left-back Matt Targett.
Predicted XI: Dubravka; Krafth, Lascelles, Burn, Targett; Guimaraes, Shelvey, Willock; Joelinton, Wilson, Saint-Maximin.
Head to Head
Drawn: 40 Lost: 72
These sides first met in 1893, when City were still known as Ardwick, however, it took another two years and a name change for City to get their first win in 1895; a 4-0 romp at home. This season, City took a 4-0 win back in December, with Dias, Cancelo, Mahrez and Sterling securing the three points. City are unbeaten in six against the Geordies.
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Assistants: Constantine Hatzidakis and Neil Davies Fourth official: Anthony Taylor
VAR: Jarred Gillett
Assistant VAR: Nick Hopton
Written by: @olicoulsxn
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