City go Sunday shopping – NEWCASTLE UTD v MAN CITY

The stripes are a different colour and they’re just 10.49 miles apart as the crow flies, but as far as Manchester City are concerned Newcastle and Sunderland are polar opposites.

Trips to Tyneside are usually an illuminating experience for the Sky Blues. They haven’t lost at St James’ Park – The Citadel of the North East – since Michael Owen, latterly the ‘charismatic voice’ of BT Sport, scored the winner in a 1-0 Toon victory back in 2005.

Each game as it comes - Pellegrini is ever the pragmatist, refusing to talk about a quadruple City success

Each game as it comes – Pellegrini is ever the pragmatist, refusing to talk about a quadruple City success

Contrast that with the darkness that descends when City pop down the road to the Stadium of Light, with four frustrating, and totally undeserved 1-0 defeats on the bounce – perverse doesn’t even come close.

Manuel Pellegrini’s team need to take maximum points to sustain their impressive title charge, having won eight of their last nine. It must be hoped that Pellegrini’s December Manager of the Month accolade, isn’t the proverbial kiss of death.

Alan Pardew earned similar recognition for Newcastle’s exploits in November, but has since seen his side lose their last three, including an unexpected FA Cup reversal to Cardiff at a half-empty St James’ last Saturday.

Pellegrini’s managerial career in England was off to a flyer in August, when City downed the Magpies 4-0 in the opening Premier League match. That win was City’s eighth consecutive victory over United in the top flight.

Beauty of The Beast - Negredo will be looking for goals 19, 20 even 21 at St James's Park

Beauty of The Beast – Negredo will be looking for goals 19, 20 even 21 at St James’s Park

In total, City are unbeaten in their last 14 PL games against Newcastle, not forgetting a 2-0 Capital One Cup win in extra time last October.

It’s a phenomenal run of success and the law of averages says it can’t go on forever, but the form book strongly suggests it’s not about to end on Sunday.

City’s astute Chilean leader won’t let recent history cloud his thinking on what will undoubtedly be a challenging encounter, with the home side roared on by some of the finest supporters in the land.

If clubs were judged by the calibre of their fans and not their players, Newcastle would be among the elite. So too would West Ham United, but look what happened to them in midweek.

Hammered time - City went goal crazy in mid-week

Hammered time – City went goal crazy in mid-week

After scoring their latest half-a-dozen goals – against the Hammers – City have now netted an incredible 92 goals in just 31 games across four competitions.

It doesn’t therefore help Newcastle’s cause that skipper Fabricio Coloccini will be out with a knee injury, while French international right back Mathieu Debuchy is suspended.

City are still denied the services of Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic and Jack Rodwell through injury, but are able to welcome back Jesus Navas and Micah Richards from the medical room, while Yaya Toure has shaken off the effects of an ankle problem.

Just eight goals shy of a century and nearly half the season still to go, City’s goal haul is all the more remarkable given the absence of Aguero. The sublime Argentine was scoring at the rate of a goal-per-game before he hobbled off with a damaged calf, with City leading Arsenal 2-1 on December 14th.

Toure de Force - Yaya has been in prolific goalscoring form

Toure de Force – Yaya has scored five goals in his last four games against Newcastle – more than against any other PL team

Ridiculously, he’s hardly been missed with 24 goals bagged in seven-and-a-bit matches. He’s poised to return, ahead of his original recovery schedule, against Cardiff next weekend.

Talk about making a good thing even better!

Joe Hart, Matija Nastasic and Fernandinho should return as Pellegrini fields his strongest available First XI.

City’s away form has been cited as the team’s weakness in their title aspirations. True, there are presently seven teams – Newcastle included – who have amassed more points on the road than City, but Pellegrini appears to have cured any travel sickness.

Zaba Daba Doo - Pablo is back to peak form as City's defence continues improving

Zaba Daba Doo – Pablo is back to peak form as City’s defence continues improving

A rejuvenated Joe Hart, an in-form Aleksander Kolarov, a returning  central pairing of Captain Fantastic Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic, plus an outstanding Pablo Zabaleta, means City’s defence now rates fourth, with 23 goals conceded.

With a sense of continuity finally established at the back, Pellegrini now knows his preferred selection in the big games and Newcastle away is a big game!

The Toon are 13 points better off after 20 games than this time last year and, with 33 points in the bag, are on course to equal the achievements of 2011/12 when they finished 5th.

Keeper Tim Krul and playmaker Yohan Cabaye are expected to be available for what should be anything but a 0-0 draw. The North East-North West match up has a history of high-scoring, with 38 goals in the last 11 clashes.

Key components - Silva and Dzeko are in a rich vein of form going into the Newcastle game

Key components – Silva and Dzeko are in a rich vein of form going into the Newcastle game

It could be a significant weekend in the race for the PL title with the top four all away from home. Chelsea travel to a surprisingly resolute Hull City, while Liverpool face an improving Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium – both tricky ties.

Sadly the same cannot be said for Arsenal’s trip to Aston Villa on the Monday night, but hopefully it’ll be a game the Gunners need to win to regain top spot off City.

Pellegrini had said that if City were within three points of the leaders by the end of 2013, his team would be on course to win the title.

City shaved five points off the advantage held by Arsene Wenger’s pacesetters last month, and now the harsh realities and rigours of a tough PL campaign are starting to kick in.

City have shown how resolute they can be having lost key men such as Kompany, Nastasic, Silva and Aguero for prolonged periods. The squad, by no means perfect and with room for improvement, has held up well.

Returning hero - Sergio is poised to be back for City next week

Returning hero – Sergio is poised to be back for City next week

But can City’s rivals cope with similar losses – Theo Walcott at Arsenal being a prime example?

The prospect of a unique, albeit unlikely, quadruple (more than happy to be proven wrong) could well see City make a marquee signing this month to strengthen the defence.

City surely won’t want to gamble on leaving the side exposed, in what could turn out to be the most successful season in the club’s history?

The risk of losing the hugely influential Kompany for any length of time would be ruinous. Centre back is the most obvious position where injuries, even suspensions, could leave City exposed.

Key Kompany - City's skipper makes a massive difference on the field and on results

Key Kompany – City’s skipper makes a massive difference on the field and on results

Joleon Lescott’s departure either this month, but preferably in the summer, looks inevitable. However, his desire to try and stake a claim for England’s World Cup squad may hasten a move.

Speculation linking City with what would be a big money move for either Porto’s young French CB, Eliaquim Mangala or Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos, appear to have ‘legs’ but, at this point it is pure speculation.

Purchases in the transfer market are always a source of anticipation and excitement among fans, but the only ‘shopping’ on Manuel Pellegrini’s list this weekend will be three PL points after successfully scanning the ‘Barcodes’.

#TrustOurMP

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com

18 Comments

  1. January 11, 2014  8:50 am by Alan Baxter Reply

    Only just over halfway through the season, but it seems every game is a "must win" nowadays. Not to the same extent as when Yaya secured the title (because QPR would be a case of just turning up) two years ago, but even so maintaining the momentum picked up in December is crucial. I always enjoy Newcastle, like you say, passionate and yet welcoming people the Geordies. On the back of recent results I fancy us to be coming back down the A1 with another 3 points. Cheers David.

    • January 11, 2014  9:45 am by David Walker Reply

      You & your deadlines! I thought you were saving it for the train journey to The Toon! Cheers AB - hope you're right.

  2. January 11, 2014  9:20 am by Chris Hsnley Reply

    We'll beat that toon in ? Superb assessment David

    • January 11, 2014  9:46 am by David Walker Reply

      Let's hope so - a one goal win will do...six would be better ;-)

  3. January 11, 2014  10:07 am by Graham Ward Reply

    Thanks, David, for a good, thoughtful article about this one. You're right, our superb run of results against the Geordies will have to end at some time, I just hope it's not tomorrow. The way we're playing at the moment, it doesn't look likely (dreaded kiss of death, haha)
    I've always liked games against them, and, like West Ham, their fans deserve better.
    How they must wish for a North East HHSM!

    • January 11, 2014  10:15 am by David Walker Reply

      Indeed the poor old Geordies...we have Shiekh Mansour & they have Mike C-Ashley! Thank goodness HHSM chose us #soluckyluckylucky

  4. January 11, 2014  10:19 am by Mole Rocks Reply

    I echo some of the other comments, there only seems to be must win games these days.

    I'm going to my lucky pub tomorrow, so any type of win would be welcome.

    Carrying on from our apparent symbiotic link with Arsenal, would like City to strengthen in January's transfer window, don't won't us to lose our way in February, as Arsenal have done in recent seasons.

    All is good in the Blue Kingdom, here's to MP's and City's continued progress and success.

  5. January 11, 2014  11:43 am by David Walker Reply

    Without even hint of arrogance I can see City winning PL & League Cup which, in itself would make this City's single most successful season.

    Naturally I'd be delighted as a City fan, but more so for Manuel Pellegrini who has been exemplary since day one. It would enable him to ram all the media jibes about having not won a title in Europe right up the fundament of pundits & journalists alike. #TrustOurMP more than ever before.

  6. January 11, 2014  3:20 pm by carol Reply

    my abiding memory of playing Newcastle at St James in the 2011-2012 is my lad getting very worried that I was going to expire of heart failure as I jumped up shouting and swearing for the umpteenth time, it was then that he uttered the soothing words that will stay with me forever "SIT DOWN YA LANKY FREAKSHOW!" bless him! I'm sure it's gonna be a good un

    • January 11, 2014  11:46 pm by David Walker Reply

      A tad harsh from the boy! Hopefully similar scenes in May as MP closes in on his 1st title success in Europe.

  7. January 11, 2014  5:10 pm by Paul Reply

    Awesome read again David please keep it up, you never know you might get a career out of it LOL! #citybros

    • January 11, 2014  11:49 pm by David Walker Reply

      I would love to write about MCFC & earn a crust, but I see no queues of prospective employers forming - damn. Better keep on just scribing for the hell of it!

      Cheers fella

  8. January 11, 2014  5:20 pm by DOUGLAS HENSHAW Reply

    Great read from the pen of the master. We are on fire at the moment Dave hopefully the big blue bus will role in to toon & leave with 3pts #TrustOurMP

    • January 11, 2014  11:50 pm by David Walker Reply

      Hope so Doug #MCFCPLCHAMPIONS2014

  9. January 11, 2014  7:36 pm by Philip Entwistle Reply

    Good article again Dave, the momentum that is the City goal machine just keeps on rolling along. City are to Newsactle what Everton and Sunderland are to us, no matter how well they play they will end up losing.
    The media are trying to undermine City by continuing to talk of the quadruple, so they can claim we 'bottled it' - typical City. We who have been around long enough would take the League above anything else, if anything else comes along so be it.
    KTF and 3 points at Newcastle.

    • January 11, 2014  11:54 pm by David Walker Reply

      Screw the anti-City elements in media & the commentator's box. Actions speak louder than words - Pellers is doing a magnificent job. Thanks

  10. January 12, 2014  4:15 am by Jim Land Reply

    I just hope all the above positivism (?) doesn't have the same effect as the notorious 'commentator's curse.' You know, the "Well the goalkeeper's having a great game," followed by a crass own goal 3 seconds later. Having been a blue since the 60's, I still find it hard to adjust to our new status, and even harder not to expect a 'typical City' moment. That said, another good article and excellent analysis.

    • January 12, 2014  5:35 am by David Walker Reply

      That same 'TC' fear is never far away in the pit of my stomach Jim. Despite all of the giant strides & massive progress, three-&-a-half decades of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory don't just go away! I hope I haven't put a hex on MP & the chaps!

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