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City v Newcastle: Talking Points

TOON: City welcome Newcastle to the Etihad on Saturday

TOON: City welcome Newcastle to the Etihad on Saturday

Manchester City will look to return to winning ways this weekend when we host Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium.

A head of the game, Club journalist Rob Pollard has taken a look at some of the major talking points.

1Light at left-back

Fabian Delph will be out for some time after suffering a knee injury in the defeat to Liverpool.

And he joins long-term absentee Benjamin Mendy, who remains sidelined with an ACL problem. 

That leaves Pep Guardiola with a shortage at left-back, with Danilo, predominantly a right-sided player, likely to have to fill in over the next few weeks.

It’s far from ideal to play without a specialist, particularly in a position that’s key to Guardiola’s style of play, but City need to show they are capable of coming up with solutions.

It’s what Guardiola is famed for and watching him figure out this tactical conundrum will be a fascinating sub-plot to the next few weeks.

2Bouncebackability

It hasn’t happened very often this season – twice in 33 games, in fact – but City need to get back to winning ways after defeat last time out.

The loss to Liverpool was difficult to take. A poor 10-minute period that saw us gift the Merseysiders three goals ultimately proved our downfall and our football rarely reached the heights we’ve managed throughout much of the season. It was out first Premier League defeat in 30 matches, a run that spanned 281 days.

But the sign of a great team is how they react in adversity. A win against Newcastle is as much about the three points as it is proving we can put bad moments behind us and return quickly to our best.

3Some perspective

As disappointing as the defeat at Anfield was, City’s season is still going superbly.

We remain in all three knock-out competitions and are 12 points clear of second-placed Manchester United in the Premier League.

PRESS CONFERENCE: Pep Guardiola previews City's upcoming game against Newcastle.

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Indeed, our return of 62 points from 23 games the best record by a club after 23 matches of an English top-flight season (W20, D2, L1), matching Tottenham in 1960-61 and Chelsea in 2005-06.

We also remain unbeaten at home in the Premier League since the 3-1 defeat to Chelsea in December 2016, a run of 23 matches (18 wins, five draws).

4 History lesson

City are currently on a run of 20 Premier League game without defeat against Newcastle, our longest top-flight unbeaten sequence against any side.

Indeed, we’ve managed at least four in our last four home games against the Magpies. The last team to do so in five straight games was Spurs against Blackburn in 1966.

Sergio Aguero, in particular, enjoys playing against Newcastle. The Argentine averages a goal or assist every 31 minutes against them at the Etihad Stadium.

It all bodes well for Saturday’s game.

5 Rafa factor

On paper, this far from Newcastle’s best team of the Premier League era but in Rafa Benitez they have a manager capable of squeezing every last drop of ability from his players.

The former Liverpool boss – a Champions League winner during his time at Anfield – is known for his ability to outwit opposition managers tactically.

It will be a fascinating battle between to of the game’s most decorated managers. 

STRIKE: Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring against Newcastle in December 2017.

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BIG MATCH PREVIEW: Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola revealed Fabian Delph is out of contention for City’s Premier League clash with Newcastle.

The stand-in left-back was substituted in City’s 4-3 defeat at Liverpool last weekend with a knee injury sustained in the first-half and the Blues boss told press he will be sidelined for an indeterminable amount of time.