After putting on more than a respectable effort hosting Liverpool last Saturday, the Magpies go on the road this Sunday. It’s time to face the other title candidate and fellow petro-dollar-fueled club Manchester City at the Etihad.
City will be rested—opposite Liverpool last Saturday, I guess—but the Sky Blue will stand on the pitch after enduring a soul-crushing defeat against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals when they were no more than a few seconds from reaching their second final in a row.
The Toon, on the other hand, comes from defeat too but a much different one against a seemingly undefeatable team in Pool. It’s all looking good for the Magpies, who can’t complain about the situation they find themselves in with three games to go—a top half position in the Premier League table.
For all of the bitching about the early start—12:30 pm, lunch-time kickoff—Liverpool arrived in St James’ Park to play sandwich football between two slices of Spaniard UCL bread... and went back home with the three points secured and in their bag. Of course, that was always going to be the case, with the possibility of a draw already a distant one for the Magpies. Even then, the Geordie side was good enough to keep things tight and close, and although the Reds dominated all game long they couldn’t get to a larger-than-one-goal distance against Newcastle.
Manchester City played Leeds in the most Copa Libertadores atmosphere ever witnessed in the Premier League—kudos to the Leeds fans for attempting to build that cauldron—although it really did not harm the Sky Blue chances at getting a very obvious victory. After beating Real Madrid putting four goals past them in Manchester, and doubling down on that with four more against Leeds, City went on to drop the second leg of the UCL semi-finals in a span of fewer than two minutes (and extra-time) thus missing on their second European final in a row. Uhhhh.
The thing is, as gutted as Pep Guardiola and his boys might be after that farcical outing, there is no real chance they come crying and sad and defeated and feeling like losing another game this Sunday—let alone one against a mid-table team like Newcastle is at the end of the day. The Premier League is the only competition they can still extract a trophy from to save face a bit, so you bet the Citizens will be doing it all to come out victorious.
Pretty much as we did on this space with Liverpool a week ago, recapping City’s season is just about highlighting tons of wins and only the odd defeat. That said, though, City have drawn three games in this calendar year and they’ve done so against two middling sides in Crytal Palace and Southampton, the former match taking place as recently as in mid-March. Call me crazy, but if Palace could pull off the feat, Newcastle surely can too.
The last time Newcastle stole points from City was all the way back in Nov. 2019 when both sides tied 2-2, and right before that (Jun. 2019) United actually defeated (!) City 2-1. That’s good and all, but don’t bet on it happening again this weekend, folks.
Exactly a month ago, Newcastle was about to embark on a four-game winning streak that only Liverpool could stop last Saturday. Those four victories came after having lost three straight to Chelsea, Everton, and Tottenham. With the Magpies facing Liverpool, City, and Arsenal in three of the last four games of the season, we could very well be watching Newcastle enter another three-game skid that should end in the last game on the schedule as that’d be against close-to-relegation-zone Burnley.
Other than against the mighty brutal Real Madrid and Liverpool, Manchester City has held teams to scoring one goal at most against them for nearly three months. Tottenham was the last team other than RM/LIV to put three inside the Sky Blue nets and that was all the way back in February when the Spurs defeated City 3-2.
Not a problem for City smashing minnows left and right, and in fact not a problem scoring goals at all, against whoever they’ve faced. It’s been six in a row scoring at least one, and in five of those—with the exception of Wednesday’s game against Real Madrid—City scored at least a couple against their opposition. Pretty scary, that is.
Newcastle is expected to welcome back Callum Wilson, who will make his first appearance with the Magpies since he got injured against Manchester United—how fitting—back in late December. We have to assume Wilson won’t start this game but Eddie Howe has made it clear that he will (most probably) get involved at some point. He better be and he better bring a bag of goals with him, because that’s something that the Magpies have been really hurting for all year long.
Kieran Trippier might have to wait another week, but he’s eager to make it back to the field too, and might make the squad even though sitting on the bench for the full 90 minutes of play.
All things considered, this feels more like a City game than a Newcastle one in that it could change the course of the Premier League and decide it for good. This matchday is clearly the last one in which both Manchester City and Liverpool will surely need to give it all to get those three points or at least match whatever their respective competitor does. Any mistake against Newcastle—or Tottenham in Pool’s case—and that might be a title killer for any of the two contenders.
As for Newcastle, this is just a match to enjoy as a celebration of the pretty perfect line the club has walked since those ugly long-gone days of 2021, which coincidentally City themselves punctuated with a 4-0 win against the Magpies at St James’ Park. United is sitting 10th in the Premier League table, won’t finish below 14th, is 11 points clear of the relegation zone, and to put the cherry on top is welcoming very important players back from injury this weekend.
Watching the Men in Black and White suffering and fighting to avoid dropping to the second level feels ancient. And this weekend should only give the Geordie Army a glimpse of what could be ahead of the club going forward. Until then, NUFC march on!
The Guardian’s guess at the Starting XIs from the Geordie Lads and the Citizens, who are expected to go all-in with the likes of Callum Wilson back and fit!
- Not Available: Ryan Fraser (hamstring), Schar (foot). Not in the 25-man squad: Ciaran Clark, Isaac Hayden, Jamal Lewis.
- First things first: I don’t expect Wilson to start on Sunday. He’s coming off four-plus months off the field. He’s just been training in full for a week-and-change at most. Howe has been making it clear for a good while that Newcastle won’t rush anyone back. That’s the proper approach to this season with nothing on the line more than a final position ranging between 8th and 14th. Give Chris Wood a chance, or just run Joelinton at the front given what he showed against Norwich a couple of weeks ago, playing Longstaff in the middle of the park. Then, deploy Wilson off the bench for him to shake off that pesky rust. Simple.
- ASM and Almirón on the wings feel like the right move. They are the two most in-form players at the wide flanks, and judging by Howe’s words on Friday he’d like the team to show a little bit more in terms of going-for-it attitude than they do against Liverpool. Seems logical to feature a couple of fast, attacking wingers in the lineup come Sunday.
- The Guardian projects the bona fide best midfield trio on the Magpies side, which is also smart on their part and Howe’s if he does it. We saw a very disappointing Joe Willock last weekend, and at least to my eyes that was a wrong decision from the get-go, even more considering how the formation and gameplan seemed to be more focused on defending than anything else. Jonjo/Joelinton/Bruno form the best group of midfielders the Toon has available, and this is a legit top-of-the-order game against the best team in the world. You gotta play the superstars to have a chance, is what I’m saying.
- Not a chance in hell Trippier starts on the right-back position, per the very own Eddie Howe. That means we’ll see Emil Krafth making another start. Can’t complain, honestly. Lascelles should man the center of the defense with Fabian Schar out injured and probably done for the season if Howe goes with his no-risks approach to this whole thing.
When and Where’s flowin’
- Date: Sunday, May 8
- Time: 11:30 am ET, 4:30 pm UK
- Location: Etihad Stadium, Manchester
- TV: Sky Sports (UK), USA Network/Peacock (USA), DAZN (Canada)
For all your international watching needs, check LiveSoccerTV.com.
How’s it goin’
Coming Home, Crystal Ball: Manchester City 3 - 1 Newcastle
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Howay the Lads!