When Roberto Mancini professed that Manchester United were still the title favourites, despite City’s prominent position, many guffawed, rolled their eyes and cried “mind games”. Newcastle’s win at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, however, suggested that there was plenty of credibility in the Italian’s assertions.
The Geordies are level on points with fourth-place Tottenham going into this weekend’s fixtures, and are showing no signs of abating in their quest to prove every pundit, ex-professional and tipster wrong this season.
Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote was stretchered off in the midweek game at Stamford Bridge and required seven stiches in a gash above his eye following a collision with John Obi Mikel. The Ivorian will, however, be available this weekend; possible sporting a head bandage. Danny Simpson is a concern having missed the midweek game and will face a late fitness test.
Mancini’s only concern is for goalkeeper Joe Hart who is said to be having “extensive treatment” on a foot injury picked up in the win over Manchester United. He is expected to be available but if not Costel Pantilimon would deputise.
Both teams will come into this game on a high following massive wins against Chelsea and Manchester Untied respectively. Newcastle, however, should be able to play with the greater sense of freedom as the burden of expectation has long since been lifted from their shoulders.
The Geordies have won seven of their last eight matches, while Man City are looking to record a fifth successive victory for the first time since September/November.
City have the edge in recent head-to-heads having won each of the last four meetings between the sides. An away win is priced at odds of 1.68, the draw is 3.75 and Newcastle are 5.00 to add City to their list of high-profile casualties.
No team has scored more Premier League away goals than Manchester City this season, but Newcastle’s home defence is one of the meanest in the division.
Six of the last seven Newcastle-Man City games have ended with more than 2.5 goals though, and the last two have finished with a 3-1 scoreline in favour of The Citizens. Over 2.5 goals is available to back at odds of 1.75 and another 3-1 City victory is at 14.00.
You can’t switch on your television set at present without seeing a wonder-striker from Papiss Cisse. The new Geordie hero has scored 13 goals in just 12 Premier League matches since joining the club in January, giving him the joint-best goalscoring return of any player in the league’s history. He’s only failed to score once in his last eight matches and is a tempting 3.25 to find the net here.
Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez have combined well since the latter returned to the City side a few weeks back. Tevez has scored three in his last two starts against The Magpies and can be backed at 2.40 to do so this weekend.
I, however, prefer the look of the 4.50 being offered about Yaya Toure getting on the scoresheet. The Ivorian was at his combative best in Monday’s win over United and his foraging runs could cause the Newcastle defence plenty of problems.
World Cup final referee Howard Webb will take charge of his 46th game of the season at the Sports Direct Arena this weekend. In the previous 45 games he has issued an average of 3.27 yellow cards per game and brandished a red on average once every nine games.
With so much at stake this one has the potential to be a fiery affair and Over 40.5 points is available to back at odds of 1.65. Plus, with Tiote and Nigel de Jong involved you’re almost guaranteed at least a couple of cautions before we even start.
PREDICTION: Newcastle 1-2 Man City
BEST BET: Over 2.5 goals @ 1.75