Saturday 30th November 2019

12.30 KO – Live on BT

Following the unwanted reappearance of ‘Mr Hyde’ on Monday night in the West Midlands, Steve Bruce and his boys head back home this Saturday with plenty to think about. Facing them, is a daunting lunchtime encounter with Champions, Manchester City.

For the first time in a while Pep’s team are not having everything their own way. The season so far has seen some of their usual stellar football, but has also been blighted by some much more uncharacteristic performances.

As a team, they continue to find the goal without compare, netting a stunning thirty seven in the first thirteen Premiership fixtures. However, it’s at the other end of the field where things haven’t been going quite so well.

They’re currently shipping at just over a goal a game. At first glance this doesn’t seem disastrous, but when you consider the defeats away at Carrow Road and Anfield, then add in the home loss to Wolves – all of which culminated in eight goals against and some pretty ropey individual defensive displays – they clearly don’t look right, back there.

What of United? Well, put it this way – The Emerald Isle’s tiny musical tycoon, Bono once penned a great song called ‘Running to Stand Still’. It constantly reverberates around inside my skull, these days. Or should that be decades? We should sack off ‘Lurcal Heerur’ and make this our anthem. It’s almost too apt.

Having fleetingly begun to get a few of our hopes up after back to back wins, we reverted to type against Villa. On view was a litany of stupid errors, an alarming lack of creativity and eunuch style penetration. To top it all, the recently lauded defence decided to play ‘statues’ for the evening. We were rubbish from start to finish, with only St Max, Martin and possibly Fede to come out of it with any credit.

It’s not the ideal preparation for the visit of Ginger Kev and his pals, is it?

You’d imagine Mr Bruce will have Schär back at his disposal. He’ll also be able to call on Sean Longstaff (I know I erroneously said he was available on Monday, but he’s def ok for this one) and possibly Ritchie in midfield, but we’ll still have an attacking force with one goal between them – whomever he decides to go with. One goal, man? Jesus wept.

Like many (all?) of you, I felt equally negative prior to the Citizen’s last visit to Tyneside in February. On that occasion, we incredibly (and deservedly) bested them by two goals to one, swept on by a wave of euphoria from the stands. Can lightning strike twice?

Well, technically it can – but come on, we’d all be absolutely astonished, wouldn’t we? This Manchester City squad could put out two completely different starting XI’s and it would be a struggle, such is their strength in depth. As an example, the lethality of Aguero won’t be on show due to a groin injury, but his replacement is Brazilian, Gabriel Jesus. Ok, I don’t rate him in the same class as Sergio but 30 Premiership goals in 76 so far ( including many sub appearances ) gives you an idea of what we’re up against.

Prediction time.

I reckon Bruce will plump for both the elder Longa and Schär, probably for the largely ineffective Shelvey and an ‘out of sorts’ Dummett. This will improve things. I also think we’re more comfortable ceding possession and trying to dig in. It is after all, still largely Rafa’s side.

However, our lack of any sort of bite up top and their overall quality mean that we’ll concede. If that occurs early on, I’d really fear for us. If we keep them at bay, frustrating them, I still think they’ll break us down at some point.

I’m going for 0-2 and 3000 Liam Gallagher’s having a whale of a time in the Gods.

Bah frigging Humbug.

Nick Clark