Saturday’s Premier League action closes out at St James’ Park with a mouth-watering encounter between Newcastle United and Manchester City.
Following a festive period to forget, during which they slumped to mid-table in the Premier League, 11 points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal, the Magpies saw a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
Inspired by Alexander Isak’s second-half brace, Eddie Howe’s side obliterated fierce rivals Sunderland 3-0 in last week’s FA Cup action, renewing the club’s hopes of staging a top-flight comeback.
However, Newcastle’s last home league outing brings back unpleasant memories, with bottom-half Nottingham Forest knocking them down from a seven-game winning home league run with a 3-1 win on Boxing Day.
Reigning champions Man City roll into town to test the Tyne Army’s resolve, buoyed by an emphatic five-game winning streak across all competitions.
Lifting the first-ever FIFA Club World Cup trophy in December proved a turning point for Pep Guardiola’s men as they’ve won three consecutive domestic fixtures since coming home from Saudi Arabia.
Back-to-back two-goal margin wins against Everton and Sheffield United at the tail-end of 2023 paddled the Cityzens within a five-point distance of Premier League pacesetters Liverpool.
With a game in hand, the three-time successive champions are firmly in the running for an unprecedented achievement, bidding to become the first club to win four Premier League titles on the trot.
Plagued by injuries, Newcastle lost four of their last five league matches towards the end of 2023 before kicking off the new calendar year with an embarrassing 4-2 defeat at Liverpool.
St James’ Park is no longer the thriving environment it was around this time last year, yet the Magpies still boast the division’s third-best home record in 2023/24 (W8, L2).
In search of more good omens, Howe’s side held Man City to an enthralling 3-3 draw in this corresponding fixture last term before eking out a 1-0 League Cup win at this stadium earlier this season.
But not since 2019 have Newcastle beaten the Etihad outfit on home turf in Premier League action, registering two draws and as many losses across their last four league encounters on Tyneside.
Visiting Man City make this journey in high spirits after a 5-0 demolition of second-tier Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup witnessed Kevin De Bruyne’s return to the fold.
It still doesn’t mean they can take the Newcastle contest for granted, especially considering their indifferent run of three wins across their last seven league matches on the road (D1, L3).
For a team of this stature and such lofty ambitions, it’s hardly a satisfying spell, although Guardiola can draw confidence from City’s free-scoring form outside the Etihad.
Man City have averaged 2.4 goals per game across their last five Premier League travels, reinforcing their quest to get the 2024 top-flight schedule off to a flying start.
Newcastle’s never-ending injury crisis will see Nick Pope, Matt Targett, Jacob Murphy, Harvey Barnes, Callum Wilson, Joe Willock and Elliot Anderson unavailable on Saturday.
Joelinton is still a minor doubt, but Howe’s confident of having the Brazilian midfielder fit by the kick-off.
As for Man City, John Stones is still on the sidelines with an ankle problem, but Bernardo Silva and Kalvin Phillips are back after missing out on the Huddersfield fixture due to illness.
It leaves joint-top Premier League goalscorer Erling Haaland as the only doubt in the travelling camp.
Newcastle United (4-3-3): Martin Dubravka; Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman, Fabian Schar, Tino Livramento; Joelinton, Bruno Guimaraes, Sean Longstaff; Anthony Gordon, Miguel Almiron, Alexander Isak.
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Ederson; Kyle Walker, Manuel Akanji, Ruben Dias, Josko Gvardiol; Rodri, Bernardo Silva; Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Jeremy Doku; Julian Alvarez.
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