Premier League champions Manchester City start their title defence at St James’ Park against a much-changed Newcastle United side desperate to improve on last season’s performance. The Citizens will be hoping to make amends for the Community Shield loss to Arsenal, but they have a number of key players lacking match fitness.
After coming incredibly close to achieving a top 4 finish in the 2011/2012 campaign, Newcastle largely struggled in the next two seasons, with the fans constantly criticizing the club’s lack of spending and ambition. The supporters seem to have finally been heard as the Magpies made a host of quality signings this summer, with the likes of Daryl Janmaat, Siem de Jong, Emmanuel Riviere, Jack Colback and Remy Cabella arriving among others. And with Mathieu Debuchy and Loic Remy the only members of the starting line-up to have left, Newcastle have reason for optimism, although it will obviously take time for the new signings to gel. Nevertheless, some very good displays against Europe’s top sides in pre-season are enough to suggest the team are not far from the desired form and no doubt they go into the opening match in much better shape than the opposition. Siem de Jong, Davide Santon, Cheick Tiote and Papiss Cisse are all unavailable, but this time Alan Pardew has got strength in depth to cover for the absentees. The Magpies were beaten by City 2-0 back in January, but everything suggests they will give the Premier League champions a real run for their money this time out.
Manchester City won their second Premier League title in two years thanks to the strong finish of the league campaign and the fact they had shown the most consistency out of all title contenders. The club appear to have done a very good job in the summer transfer window, finding a partner for captain Vicent Kompany while adding Lampard, Sagna, Caballero, Zuculini and Fernando to improve the strength in depth. The only problem at the moment is that boss Manuel Pellegrini is still counting the costs of his key players taking part at the 2014 World Cup, and that is the main reason why Yaya Toure, David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis and Edin Dzeko are lacking in match fitness and form. The 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in the Community Shield match proved that City are nowhere near their best and I can definitely see them struggle against very good Newcastle side. It will not be easy for Manuel Pellegrini to pick the perfect starting line-up for the clash at St James’ Park despite the fact that Alvaro Negredo is the only player unavailable through injury. And with Eliaquim Mangala only recently joining the club, the Citizens could be in for a very difficult task.
Despite signing a number of new players during close season, Newcastle appear to be in decent shape at the moment and St James’ Park will be buzzing after a very promising summer recruitment. Meanwhile, Manchester City have most key men struggling for fitness and form, which is why I doubt their title defence will start with a win.
Verdict: Newcastle not to lose
Best Odds: 13/10