We are on the road for the first time this 23/24 Premier League season! And where better to start than facing the Champions of both England and Europe? Plenty of places, I’d imagine. But, as luck has it, our Magpies travel to the Etihad Stadium this weekend to play the formidable Manchester City. The odds have not been in our favour against them, but could the tide be turning?
Manchester City, Etihad Stadium
Saturday 19th August, 8:00PM
Live on the newly rebadged TNT SPORTS
So, game-week one is done and dusted. How was it for you? Well, if you’re a supporter of either Manchester City or Newcastle United, it was pretty good. This week’s hosts made the short trip to Burnley, stayed in second gear and scored three without reply. We, of course ruined our old friends, Aston Villa, 5-1. As statements of intent go, it was pretty palpable from both the Champions and last season’s 4th placers.
We go to the Etihad in the finest of fettles. However, is it fair to say that Manchester City are currently the best club side on the planet? If they’re not, it’s close. They’re a machine. A defence that is both functional and skilful. Midfielders with steel and technical ability, such as the imperious Rodrigo. Pace, assists and goals from the flanks in the likes of Grealish and Foden. To top it all, they’ve a fucking cyborg Viking that looks a bit like Scarlett Johansson up front. The way he’s going, he’ll probably best Alan Shearer’s Premiership record in a couple of seasons. Put it this way, it’s not a trip for the faint of heart.
To contextualise the above, City have won their last six home meetings with the Magpies, notching twenty goals and conceding only three. If you look back a little further, the Magpies were regularly shipping fours, fives and sixes. For the very slightest of chinks in the ‘Blue Moon’ armour, you’d have to go back circa nine years to a League Cup tie. United won 2-0 with goals from Rolando Aarons and Chuckles Sissoko.
Despite this, we’ve never won a Premiership fixture at the Etihad. You’d need to cast your mind back to the latter days of Britpop, during the Maine Road era, for our last success. A 1-0 win courtesy of Alan Shearer in September 2000. Jesus. It would be fair to say that little of the above augurs well. It’s Like Luke Edwards has written it; sat in his big hood with matching scythe accompaniment.
There are a few significant ‘buts’ though…
Many of the NUFC sides that visited Manchester over the last generation were (if we were lucky) Premiership also-rans, but this current vintage is the best we’ve seen in many a year. A Champions League spot last time out was no fluke, and we’ve improved on last year’s squad. Whilst the latest edition of Tino Livramento will probably have to wait his turn, both Sandro Tonali and Harvey Barnes made very tangible contributions during Saturday’s home debuts.
The former looks a seriously class footballer. He was everywhere versus Villa, and scored a superbly taken volley early on. The latter? Well, he’s a player in the Eddie mould too. Strong going both ways and a very decent combined record in assists/goals. He managed one of each in his inaugural cameo role, and has the makings of an NUFC legend, in my opinion.
It will be intriguing to see how Mr Howe sets us up this weekend. If you cast your mind back to our last visit there, we gave a fairly decent account of ourselves overall, but struggled to hurt them in the final third. This lead to us being pushed back, forward players became isolated and we were eventually dominated in a 0-2 reverse.
I expect the Newcastle manager will be hoping that, on this occasion, our robust looking midfield will be able to get more of a foothold in the game. City usually have the lion’s share of possession, and that will probably be the way of things on this Saturday evening too. The crucial element for me is can we turn defence into attack? Can we remain firm and pose some questions at their end? It goes without saying that if we can achieve these objectives, we’ll at least be in the game.
Another large bonus is the absence of Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian was forced to exit the fray at Turf Moor with a hamstring injury, and is out now out for months rather than weeks. The home side will be losing their most influential playmaker. His on-field relationship with the Norwegian bully can be frightening at times, and he doesn’t mind a goal himself. Whilst they’re not short of high quality replacements, there’s no one quite like him.
United are possibly further encouraged by the probability of a missing Bernardo Silva (great player – I love him) and another serial tormentor, Gündoğan has left these shores. Add in the fact that, whilst we’ve been in Benton all week preparing, they’ve had an exhaustingly hot and sweaty Greek jaunt to win the European Super Cup on pens. It’s really not an ideal situation for the Cityzens.
So, do we have a chance of getting something? I’d say ‘yes’. The bookies don’t agree. Bollocks to them, I thought. I checked in with AI on my laptop. This Skynet smartarse gave an equally bleak prediction. 80% City win, 7% Newcastle and 13% for the draw. You just stick to ending our existence, pal. Leave the predicting to me.
The last time I approached this fixture with any form of optimism, Mr Blair was concocting tales of imaginary weaponry in the Gulf. I do, however, have some today. One player I haven’t mentioned thus far is our own budding Galactico, Alex Isak. If (I know) we can find him any sort of service, I think he can hurt them. This, and some of the other reasons above, have me leaning towards a 1-1 draw. Naturally, the Nordic monster will notch for them at some point, but I fancy our boy to return the favour.
Settle for that? I would. HTFL…
®️Quizzy Rascal – Can you tell me the Man City custodian (who was once of this parish) when Newcastle last defeated Man City away in the Premiership?