Coming into this FA cup quarter-final, Newcastle fans must be as buoyant about their club’s prospects as any time since Alan ‘Depardieu’ Pardew, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba lead them to a 5th place finish in the 2011/12 season. The Saudi takeover looks closer to completion after the UK government indicated they would not block any proposed deal.
The inevitable headlines of ‘Saudi transfer war chests’ will be in stark contrast from the low budget operation of Mike Ashley. Despite a rabid fan base and close shaves with Premier League glory in the 90s, Newcastle have not won a major trophy since the 1969 Fairs cup.
The club’s proposed takeover offers the dream of being able to compete financially compete with the Premier League’s elite and it is worth remembering that Man City’s image was that of a tragicomedy club destined for mediocrity before Sheikh Mansour arrived in 2008.
Newcastle’s price to win the match indicates this game is somewhat of a free hit for Steve Bruce’s side with City overwhelming favourites and little pressure on the underdogs. Sitting 12 points above the relegation zone, a mid-table finish is close to guaranteed so Bruce will certainly play his strongest side and give a Cup upset a fighting chance.
Bruce can also take some hope from Newcastle being more than competitive with City in their last 2 meetings in the Premier League.
A sensational late strike from the mercurial Jonjo Shelvey secured a 2-2 draw at St James’ park last November and the Magpies came from behind to win 2-1 at the same venue in January 2019 in what was arguably the best result of Rafa Benitez’s outstanding tenure at the club. That result carries more weight given City won every single game after that for the rest of the 18/19 season.
Given their past success sitting deep and frustrating Pep Guardiola’s team, you would not need to be Nostradamus to work out how Newcastle will approach this game.
Newcastle will be putting their hopes in Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron to lead the counter attacks against a suspect City defence that will have Fernandinho suspended, Aymeric Laporte unlikely to feature and the error-prone Claudio Bravo replacing Ederson as goalkeeper.
Given those defensive vulnerabilities, both teams to score looks a solid bet. I think Newcastle will score at least once on the counter or from a set piece and Man City’s outstanding group of attackers including the in-form Phil Foden are unlikely to be held scoreless.
I’m also tempted by the odds on Newcastle win or draw double chance. They will not be facing a vintage City side with Sergio Aguero also absent after knee surgery and Kevin De Bruyne unlikely to start 2 games in 4 days with his history of muscle injuries.
This gives Newcastle an even greater opportunity to stay competitive. The strength of City’s bench will be a factor late in the game, but I think the odds represents enough value to take a chance on the home side avoiding defeat.
Lastly, I will chance Rodri to be booked, also at 7/2. City will be looking to protect their suspect defence from counter attacks and Rodri is more than capable of a cynical foul to chop down Almiron or Saint-Maximin.
Tips for Newcastle v Manchester City
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