‘Sorry Geordies...’ - The inside track on Manchester City as Newcastle United are tipped for heavy defeat
How do you sum up Manchester City’s start to their Premier League title defence?
MP: “City didn’t start the season amazingly and had a few slip-ups in the early weeks against the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton and Crystal Palace, but they’ve sorted out those issues in recent weeks. The Blues are actually on a winning run of seven games in the league and have been victorious in nine of their last 10 in all competitions, the exception being the inconsequential away match against RB Leipzig in the Champions League. They’ve also put in some brilliant performances of late, the highlight of which was the 7-0 demolition of Leeds United in midweek. That really was City are their relentless best and it was probably one of the most impressive displays of the Pep Guardiola era. I’d be fearful for any side coming up against City in that kind of mood…”
Will Manchester City, in any way, be wary of struggling Newcastle United?
MP: “Honestly, I really doubt it. Admittedly, Guardiola doesn’t have a fantastic record at St James’ Park, but I suspect this is the poorest Newcastle side he’s ever come up against. Having watched recent losses to Liverpool and Leicester City, it seems unlikely the Magpies’ creaky defence will be able to deal with City’s movement and speed in possession. The biggest threat looked to be Allan Saint-Maximin, but the winger now seems likely to miss out through injury. Jonjo Shelvey is another who, in my opinion, can hurt sides, but his form can fluctuate massively. Callum Wilson is an obvious threat up front, but it’s unlikely he’ll get the service needed to really threaten City.”
From the outside looking in, what are your thoughts on Newcastle United?
MP: “I’ve seen the Magpies’ last two games and watched the recent draw against Norwich City, and haven’t been hugely impressed. There were spells in all three games where Newcastle were ok, but by and large they’re too brittle defensively and can’t maintain enough possession to create many meaningful attacks. Sadly, along with Norwich, I think this current team is the worst in the division, although I suspect it could look quite different by the end of January. Even that won’t be straightforward however, and Newcastle need to sign the right players, without chucking money at those not up for a relegation scrap.”
How do you expect Manchester City to line up at St James’ Park? Will they rotate?
MP: “Guardiola has tended to play with a 4-3-3 shape or a 4-2-2-2 system. With the latter, at least one of the strikers will drop into midfield meaning there are always three in the centre, but with any formation it tends to be a pretty flexible system. Bernardo Silva is a bit of a doubt with Guardiola taking him off in midweek due to ‘muscular niggles’, while Kyle Walker missed the game as he was ‘short of full fitness’. I think both should be fit for Sunday, while Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus will likely come in after sitting out the 7-0 thrashing on Tuesday, and Joao Cancelo is also available after suspension. Kevin De Bruyne returned to the starting line-up against Leeds and was absolutely magnificent, but the Belgian has struggled with injuries all season and might not start at St James’ Park as he’s eased back into the team. The only guaranteed absentee is Ferran Torres.
“Predicted XI: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo; Rodri, Silva, Gundogan; Sterling, Jesus, Foden.”
Can we push you for a score prediction?
MP: “Sorry Geordies, but I don’t think you’re going to enjoy this one. With City in such good form and Newcastle struggling, I only see this ending one way: in an away victory. I’m also predicting City will find the back of the net on quite a few occasions, especially with an extra two days of preparation under their belts.
“Score prediction: Newcastle 0-4 Man City.”