Inside the Opposition

Inside the Opposition: Man City vs. Newcastle (Predicted XI, Man to Watch, Opposition View)

Manchester City host Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium in Gameweek four of the Premier League season. City will be looking to get straight back to winning ways following a 1-1 draw against Wolves at the Molineux. On the other hand, Newcastle are still looking for their first win of the season as they are perched at 16th in the table, but they are a side that shouldn’t be underestimated ahead of the fixture.

Predicted starting XI

Last weekend’s outing for the Magpies ended with a narrow 2-1 defeat to Chelsea in which they thwarted the opposition from playing in the manner they had in their two prior games, which resulted in Chelsea scoring three goals in each game. Newcastle set-up in a 5-4-1 formation and it is this same system that is expected against City.

Dubravka will be sure to start between the sticks following his permanent move to the Toon this summer coming off the back of a successful six-month loan from Sparta Prague. The Slovakian will have to be on top form to deny the plethora of attacking options at Guardiola’s disposal.

In the back five, four of the names should remain the same as the Chelsea fixture with the prospect of a return for Jamal Lascelles likely. He missed out on last weeks clash following a reported training ground bust-up with Rafa Benitez over his position in this formation, however, this was shut down by Benitez by claiming it was an ankle injury. Lascelles’ leadership skills, communication as well as his obvious defensive qualities obtained will be needed for Newcastle to remain resilient amidst City’s surges of attacks.

Onto the midfield, Jonjo Shelvey (thigh injury) and Isaac Hayden (suspension) are instantly out of contention for the game. Mohamed Diame looks set to be partnered by Ki Sung-yeong for the second game running. This pair should be expected to be flanked by Matt Richie, who should return to the side following a knee issue, and Jacob Murphy, who looks set to start over Kenedy who didn’t impress midweek with a lacklustre performance, to say the least.

Up top, Salamon Rondon will be wanting to continue in the same vein as midweek and any chances he could have must be capitalised on as they could be few and far between.

Player to watch

City’s backline, whether that be with two or three centre-backs, must keep close tabs on Salomon Rondon. Ever since his arrival from West Brom on a season long-loan, the Venezuelan has been competing with Joselu for the regular starting lone striker role, in which both have impressed. Joselu did start midweek in the Carabao Cup with Rondon coming off the bench and notching a goal, indicating that the latter could be given the nod against City.

Rondon caused City trouble last season for his parent club with his remarkable hold-up play, use of his brute strength to hold off the opposition and his ability to bring other teammates into play to move his side up the pitch. Nothing less should be expected this time around which Pep Guardiola will have to take into account when choosing his side.

Vincent Kompany is perfectly equipped for the job and dealt adeptly enough last season to keep Rondon quiet, however, as he started the last fixture against Wolves and didn’t impress to the standard that John Stones had the weeks prior, he could be sat on the bench this weekend. There may be a first appearance of the season for Nicolas Otamendi in a back three, alongside Stones and Aymeric Laporte, in an attempt to nullify Rondon’s threat for the duration of the game.

Opposition view

To provide the lowdown on this Newcastle side, we spoke to NUFC360 who provide a comprehensive coverage of news, match-day content and opinions on Newcastle found on their site. Here are their thoughts on the Magpies’ summer window and signings, the controversy in the last week, the season so far and Newcastle’s approach to the fixture.

Newcastle have spent £22.5m this summer on Yoshinori Muto, Federico Fernandez, Fabian Schar and Dubravka with Ki joining on a free, in addition to the loan moves for Rondon and Kenedy. Newcastle gained more than what they spent solely from the sale of Aleksandr Mitrovic for £27m, plus a further £21.4m from the outgoings of Mikel Merino, Matz Sels, Chancel Mbemba, Adam Armstrong and Ivan Toney. What were your thoughts on Newcastle’s business over the summer?

Our transfer window was shambolic. Rafa Benitez was given the bare minimum and we ended the window with a hefty profit again. The players were brought in to fill positions, not to strengthen. Dubravka and Kenedy joining was positive.

Out of the seven acquisitions, who could play a key role in the game at the weekend and over the course of Newcastle’s season?

Dubravka will have to have the game of his life if we are to get a result at the Etihad. He’s been really impressive for us ever since he joined and is going to be a key player this season.

Reports have suggested that club captain Jamal Lascelles and his boss, Benitez, had a tactical disagreement ahead of the Chelsea game last weekend which lead to Lascelles being on the bench. What are your thoughts on this and if it could have any effect on the fixture?

It isn’t a big issue as Rafa has already stated. There has been countless training ground bust-ups at Newcastle over the last few years which is refreshing as it shows commitment and passion; something we’ve lacked under previous managers.

What do you make of Newcastle’s start to the season?

We have the hardest run of fixtures of any Premier League club (Tottenham Hotspur, Cardiff City, Chelsea) so it was always going to be hard. We have been very unlucky not to get results vs. Spurs and Chelsea at St. James’ Park. The Cardiff game was a write-off, we were very poor.

As Newcastle are still without a win, could a relegation battle be on the cards or will the season follow a similar story to last year whereby it took a handful of games to get going?

We will 100% be in a tighter relegation battle this season. I expect us to be in the relegation zone for a while with our tough fixtures, but I also expect January (transfer window) to be key. If we do that right, we will stay up.

Last season, in both fixtures, Benitez opted for a very defensive approach to attempt to fend City off, is that to be expected again?

We will be as defensive as ever. It’s the only way to play at the Etihad when you have a team like ours. Limit City to few chances and hope to God that luck is on our side will be the order of the day!

Finally, what is your score prediction for Saturday?

I predict us to get to half-time at 0-0 but ultimately be undone by quality and lose 2-0.

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