12th January 2014
If they honestly plan to mount a serious top 6 challenge, Newcastle will have to continue picking up points even against England’s top sides and this will feel as a perfect opportunity to prove their credentials. Manchester City, on the other hand, need to show everyone their away struggles are in the past, and 6-0 triumph over sorry West Ham should give them something to build on.
Having struggled for large periods last season and almost ended up getting relegated to the Championship, Newcastle have been showing a great deal of improvement since the beginning of November. The Capital One Cup defeat to Manchester City served as a wake-up call for Alan Pardew’s men, who went on to win five of next six Premier League fixtures, defeating Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United in the process. Few more good results in a row saw the Magpies climb to seventh in the overall standings, only to experience a dip in form at the turn of the year. Back to back defeats to Arsenal and West Brom were hard to swallow, whereas the FA Cup loss to Cardiff City at St James’ Park acted as an additional blow to the players’ confidence. And while this team clearly have quality and experience to recover from a three-match losing run, it is not realistic to expect they can stop red-hot Manchester City in their tracks given the circumstances. Alan Pardew has received some mixed news this week as Fabricio Coloccini and Mathieu Debuchy are unavailable for the visit of City, whereas Tim Krul and Yohan Cabaye have recovered from their respective ailments.
It took Manchester City a while to hit the ground running under Manuel Pellegrini, but since things finally fell into place the Citizens have been unstoppable. The Etihad outfit have yet to climb to the top of the standings in spite of the perfect home record, and their failure to kill off games on the road has been the biggest problem this season. However, back to back away triumphs over Fulham and Swansea are enough to suggest their worries on the travels may be over, and one shouldn’t place too much significance on the FA Cup draw with Blackburn Rovers. Even with Sergio Aguero still on the sidelines, albeit set to return in a week, the Citizens continue to score goals for fun, but it is their back line that will also have to do a job at St James’ Park if the team are to claim maximum points. The return of captain Vincent Kompany has obviously added much needed stability to the back four, while Joe Hart also looks a different man following a short spell on the sidelines. And with Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas and Micah Richards all back in contention, giving Manuel Pellegrini even more options, Manchester City look a good bet to defeat Newcastle and climb to the Premiership summit at least for some 30 odd hours.
Three successive defeats must have had a negative effect on the players’ confidence and with Coloccini and Debuchy missing, Newcastle will struggle to prevent Manchester City from unleashing their incredible attacking potential. The Citizens seem to have considerably improved their form on the road and I can see them winning at St James’ Park.
Verdict: Away win Manchester City (2)
Best Odds: 8/11
Bookmaker: William Hill