Manchester City v Newcastle United - Match Preview
After last weekend`s mad ten second half minutes followed by a near miraculous recovery, it is time to get 'back on the horse` in the Premier League when City face Rafa Benitez`s Newcastle at the Etihad in Saturday`s late kick off.
Time to start another fabulous winning run and put all the doubters and nay-sayers back in their boxes. After the Stretford Galacticos cut the points deficit to a mere 12 points last Monday, no surprise to see some of his motley crew recalling their past failure to hold onto a lead in 2012. As some have wisely pointed out on this site it will do no harm for the City squad to have this brought to mind as many of them were not around then. This is a time when the experienced members of the squad such as Kompany, David Silva, Aguero can make sure they back up Pep`s message of "no complacency, we have won NOTHING yet".
With his players having squeezed in 11 games into 35 days since the derby victory over the Galacticos back in December Pep will have enjoyed having the opportunity afforded by the past week to rest his squad and also spend some time with them on the training ground. It is often forgotten that this time is of greater value to him than perhaps many other managers - this is where he can get his messages home, improve players and actually coach them. The punishing schedule with games every 2/3/4 days leaves precious little time for this and so the break will have been a welcome 'reset` for him I am sure.
If City were unsettled by Liverpool's high-pressing, Newcastle's approach to Saturday's game is likely be the polar opposite if their previous performance at St James`s Park is anything to go by. Guardiola's side travelled to St James' Park two days after Christmas and produced one of the most one-sided fixtures in Premier League history although the scoreline ended 1-0. If that`s how Benitez decided to set up at home I cannot imagine that he will throw caution to the wind for the away fixture.
Newcastle's defensive tactics were set from the kickoff with Shelvey shooting from the halfway line and the Magpies immediately retreating to the edge of their own box to soak up City attacks.
At half time, City had an astounding 83 percent possession and were on course to break the Premier League record of 82.28 percent since THAT day on the final day of the 2011-12 season when we defeated Queens Park Rangers to lift the league title.
Newcastle at least managed to reduc that statistic to 78 percent by full time with a semi-adventurous final 10 minutes, but Rafa Benitez's philosophy couldn't be more different to that employed by his former club Liverpool last weekend.
Whether pressing is the way to stop City -- and that remains up for debate given that it has only resulted in a single domestic defeat -- Newcastle's tactic is likely be to hold out for a point. We could be in for another Attack v Defence. This time however Pep will have analysed the previous fixture and have a plan……hopefully one which results in City`s all time record goalscorer renewing his acquaintance with the back of the net.
Sergio Aguero could not have asked for a better opponent in this respect.
The Argentinian has scored more goals against the Magpies than any other team. He has scored 11 times in 11 games averaging a goal every 59.73 minutes. Those figures were boosted by a brilliant five-goal haul when City beat the Magpies 6-1 two years ago.
Aa a taster for the game and an incentive to avoid another single goal victory, check out the last ten goals v Newcastle Uniter……
Which is your favourite?
City - aside form the usual suspects Delph is unavailable. Disturbingly Foden`s return date from the ligament injury sustained in the League Cup win in December remains clouded in mystery. Kompany is OFF the Physioroom injured list…..but will he be in the squad? It was in the reverse fixture last month that he 'retired hurt` yet again so there would be a certain irony if he were to return against Newcastle. Other sources still have him injured so who knows?
Newcastle - Gayle, Mbemba and Mitrovic are slight doubts. Games and Lejeune are unavailable.
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistants: Simon Bennett, Marc Perry
Fourth official: Craig Pawson
If they didn`t have last weekend`s result as an incentive to rack up an emphatic win against their next opponents, well we have to wonder whether we might witness something we might refer to as 'The Sanchez Effect`…..
Given that much of the week has been dominated by events off the pitch with the on/off move for Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez finally falling through, City`s players have their first opportunity to send an resounding message that they don't need the Chilean, who now looks bound to join the ranks of the Galacticos in Salford.
It has been well document that Pep has created a close-knit squad and they will return to the Etihad absolutely determined to show the quality that has seen them record the best-ever Premier League record after 23 games and why they don't need any reinforcement.
Come on City!!!