Date: Sat 15th December, 2012.
Kick off: 12.45pm.
Referee: Andre Marriner (W.Mids).
UK TV: Sky Sports 2.
Newcastle United’s Christmas of horror begins with a visit from last season’s Premier League champions, and the only club whose name sounds like a Gay night at Rockshots, Man City.
As you may have noticed, our run of games over the Christmas period could be a nasty business. Following this one, we have what should be a bit if respite with another home game against troubled Queens Park Rangers, though it wouldn’t surprise me if their fightback under new manager, ‘Arry Redknapp, started against us. Then it’s the other Manchester away followed with a trip down to my neck of the woods, North London, to face Arsenal. Finally, for the first game of the new year, we have the not to be sniffed at Everton. The word is that Derek Llambias has a collection of out of work managers including Big Ron and Jim “Bald Eagle” Smith on speed dial in case it all goes “tits up” for our current Silver Supremo over the holiday period. Llambias might also go down the ex NUFC legend road tried before with Keegan and Shearer as Malcolm ‘Supermac’ MacDonald is no longer otherwise engaged since the “Legends” show was axed.
History and recent form.
You can see below the respective records for both Newcastle United and Machester City for the whole of the Premiership season so far, No prizes for guessing who has the better record! However there is a ray of hope for Geordies in that City’s last game was a defeat, their first of the season in a thrilling 3-2 home defeat against neighbours, Manchester United.
|Premiership form this season (most recent first)|
|14th||Newcastle United||L|W|L|L|L|L|D|W|D|L|D|W|D|D|L|W||17 pts|
|2nd||Manchester City||L|D|W|D|W|W|D|W|W|W|W|D|D|W|D|W||33 pts|
Looking at the last six games between the sides at St James’ give’s little comfort really, with a record of (most recent first) L|L|D|L|L|W. So that’s four wins to them and just the one for us (way back in 2005), with one draw. Despite the strength of the opposition, we have to win one eventually, and we’ve seldom needed one more than now. To see the record in more detail, look at the table below.
|Newcastle United v Manchester City – Last six meetings at St James’ Park|
|06/05/12||Premier League||Newcastle United 0, Manchester City 2 (Toure 70, 89)|
|26/12/10||Premier League||Newcastle United 1 (Carroll 72), Manchester City 3 (Barry 2, Tevez 5, Coloccini (OG) 81)|
|20/10/08||Premier League||Newcastle United 2 (Sh.Ameobi 44, Dunne (OG) 63), Manchester City 2 (Robinho (Pen) 14, Ireland 86)|
|02/01/08||Premier League||Newcastle United 0, Manchester City 2 (Elano 38, Gelson Fernandes 76)|
|31/03/07||Premier League||Newcastle United 0, Manchester City 1 (Mpenza 80)|
|24/09/05||Newcastle United 1 (Owen 18), Manchester City 0|
Team news and squads.
Roberto Mancini has said in the run up to this game that his lightbulb headed Belgian Captain, Kompany, has only a “two percent chance” of starting the game, so I’ve put him down as “v.doubtful.” You never know though, it may just be a bit of kidology from the flowing locked Italian. NUFC old boy, James Milner is also on the “v.doubtful” list with his hamstring. He’s supposed to be returning to action soon but this game will probably be just too soon Meanwhile, Micah Richards (hamstring) and Jack Rodwell (hamstring) will definitely be out. Finally, Gareth Barry will be standing on the naughty step for one game after being banned for a potty mouthed outburst to a match official after last week’s Manchester derby.
Manchester City: Joe Hart (G), Costel Pantilimon (G), Richard Wright (G), Gaël Clichy (D), Aleksandar Kolarov (D), Matija Nastasić (D), Joleon Lescott (D), Kolo Touré (D), Maicon (D), Pablo Zabaleta (D, M), Javi García (M, D), Yaya Touré (M), David Silva (M), Samir Nasri (M), Scott Sinclair (M), Abdul Razak (M), Carlos Tévez (F), Sergio Agüero (F), Edin Džeko (F), Mario Balotelli (F), Alex Tchuimeni-Nimely (F), John Guidetti (F).
Injured: Jack Rodwell (M, hamstring), Micah Richards (ankle).
Doubtful: Vincent Kompany (D, C, v.doubtful groin), James Milner (M, v.doubtful hamstring).
Suspended: Gareth Barry (M, one match ban – potty mouthed verbals at ref).
As with the Fulham game last week, the biggest news is another will he, won’t he? start drama for the twinkle toed Tunisian, Hatem ben Arfa. Last week he was a doubt with his hamstring, though he ended up playing 70 minutes (and scoring of course) in the Craven Cottage capitulation. The thing is though that he may have buggered his hamstring again in that match!
The Silver Supremo said this on his current state:
“He is a concern. Although he has no symptoms, the scans show that his hamstring is not very well. It’s a tricky one for Hatem, the doctor — and particularly for myself. We think he’s got a problem but it’s not reflected in him. My gut feeling is he won’t be fit for Saturday.”
Other than that, it’s the usual long term absentees whose names I’m sick of repeating, but you can see them below.
Newcastle United: Tim Krul (G), Steve Harper (G), Rob Elliot (G), Danny Simpson (D), Davide Santon (D), Fabricio Coloccini (D), Mike Williamson (D), James Tavernier (D), James Perch (D, M), Vurnon Anita (M, D), Shane Ferguson (M, D), Cheick Tiote (M), Jonas Gutierrez (M), Gabriel Obertan (M), Sylvain Marveaux (M), Gael Bigirimana (M), Hatem Ben Arfa (M, F), Sammy Ameobi (M, F), Demba Ba (F), Papiss Cisse (F), Shola Ameobi (F), Nile Ranger (F).
Injured: Yohan Cabaye (groin), Steven Taylor (hamstring), Ryan Taylor, Haris Vuckic and Dan Gosling, (all knee).
Doubtful: Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring).
Tactical notes and suggested line ups.
In pre season, the Citizens dabbled with an interesting and highly attacking 3-5-2 or 3-1-4-2 (depending on your point of view). This was seemingly to give them even greater attacking options (as if they needed them) with wing backs bombing forward to give the side greater width. After some great initial success in pre season frindlies and the Community Shield game where they beat Chelsea 3-2, it’s faded out. So expect Mancini to line up his lads in the à la mode 4-2-3-1 formation, probably with Aguero at the front with Tevez and/or Silva either up his arse or on one of the flanks of the three behind him. I’m going for Aguero at the front, Silva on the left side of an attacking threesome behind him with Tevez in the middle and Nasri on the right hand side. However, there’s just such an embarrassment of riches at moneybags Man City nowadays that it could perfectly well be something completely different and equally impressive. Balotelli or Džeko are other alternatives at the tip of the spearhead, though the troublesome Balotelli, who makes Gazza look mature and well adjusted, has been very goalshy this season with only one to his name so far, something which hasn’t been the case with Džeko at all.
Make no mistake, the Manchester City squad is full of “key” players who could completely change a game on their own, Tévez, Yaya Touré and several others. However, if there is one Key, key player it would probably be playmaker, David Silva. When he plays well, Manchester City play well with the Spaniard pulling the strings. So let’s hope he has a poor game! He probably won’t though.
Moving back to the more defensive twosome behind the three, Yaya Touré is another immensely important and influentual player for the sky blues. One of the most complete central midfieders around, he can go from being solid in defence to threatening in attack in a heartbeat. With his usual partner in central midfield crime, Gareth “interesting” Barry, sitting this one out after being banned for having a few “words” with one of the match officials after the final whistle of the Manchester derby, expect the also excellent Javi García to be dropped in beside the Ivory Coast maestro, just as our own Cheick Tiote is in the Ivory Coast national side.
Finally to the back four. As mentioned above, Captain Kompany will almost certainly be a big miss at centre back, and also as leader. Joleon Lescott is probably the most likely candidate to step in for him alongside Matija Nastasic in the heart of defence. Kolarov and Clichy will fight it out for the left back slot, with Zabaleta and Maicon doing the same thing for the right defensive flank.
“As for Newcastle’s approach to this game, well that could be a tricky one as Pardew certainly changed things around a bit in our last game against Wigan.”
That was how I started this same section in my Fulham preview, and it’s much the same this time. I counted three different formations during the game and Pardew generally seemed all at sea after a poor start. Hence I’m all at sea in trying to guess what he will will come out with in this game.
Though Pardew’s experiments with a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 didn’t have much success against Fulham, if he comes out as a 4-4-2 then Man City, especially Tevez, will relish the opportunity to work their way through the spaces between the two symmetrical banks of four as they did last time. Their strength in attack from all areas could pull Newcastle out of shape, leaving space for the pace, acceleration and finishing of Agüero. All that and I haven’t even mentioned the likes of Silva, Yaya Toure and Nasri. I wouldn’t recommend a 4-4-2 for this game at all, but whatever Pardew chooses, some big performances will be required from Tiote and all of the Newcastle back four to stem the tide. It goes without saying that Newcastle will be soaking up alot of pressure. If they are pinned back in their own half for much of the game, ceding the midfield and waiting to dispossess their opponents and hit tham on the counter (as they have been many times this season), City’s fullbacks will also push right forward as the front three become more compact, which will stretch the play and give the visitors great width too. Unfortunately though, we simply haven’t created enough chances from counterattacks or any kinds of attacks for that matter, and are yet to score from a set piece. Our saving grace has been Ba making the most of the little he’s had to work with upfront and he will need to do it again in this match.
Worky’s final thought.
Although I have written several glowing reports on City’s considerable attacking talents, by their usually very high standards, I think it would be fair to say that Manchester City’s attacking play has lacked a certain “bite” this season compared with last, and of course, they still haven’t got their Champion’s League act together by any stretch of the imagination. However this is the Premiership, and Newcastle’s current problems with tactics and lacklustre performances certainly put their problems in the shade, though both managers are certainly under pressure according to the differing expectations of the two sides. So, even if there is a chink in Man City’s armour, and even if we do have a home advantage, it may count for little if you’ve looked at the previous record between the two side at St James’ Park.
So overall, it certainly doesn’t look good on paper. then again, as we all know, football isn’t played on paper, wounded animals and various other cliches…
So let’s just live in hope!
Howay the lads!