Saturday's evening game sees Newcastle travel to Manchester City, who have completely dominated this fixture in the league over the past few seasons. Michael Cox looks at the tactics, while Alan Thompson has the betting lowdown....
"This is, however, a game which could open out significantly after half-time."
Manchester City v Newcastle
Saturday 17:30, Sky Sports 1.
Match Odds: Man City 1.330/100, Newcastle 12.5, The Draw 6.411/2.
Newcastle recorded a shock Capital One Cup victory at Manchester City earlier in the season, but a repeat seems hugely unlikely: Newcastle are in poor form, have major injury worries, and have an atrocious record against Manchester City in the Premier League.
In their last 16 league meetings, City have won 14 and drawn two, with not a single Newcastle victory during that period. Therefore, this will be an uphill task away at the Etihad, especially with City able to count upon the services of Yaya Toure, who missed a month at the Africa Cup of Nations. City have badly struggled without him.
Toure should return to the centre of midfield alongside Fernandinho, and be given plenty of license to break forward. David Silva and Samir Nasri will also start, although with in-form James Milner ruled out, it remains to be seen whether Manuel Pellegrini will use one striker or two.
Silva could be pulled wide, with Edin Dzeko perhaps supporting Sergio Aguero. The Argentine is a slight doubt having collected a back injury last weekend, though will probably start. Wilfried Bony is waiting in the wings, ready to make his City debut - although Stevan Jovetic is another option.
John Carver has lost Chieck Tiote, who joins the likes of Paul Dummett, Steven Taylor, Rolando Aarons and Siem de Jong on the sidelines, with Remy Cabella a doubt too. It leaves Carver without many tactical options for this tricky trip to the champions.
Carver has previously played Moussa Sissoko deep in midfield, with Ayoze Perez, Cabella and Sami Ameobi or Yoan Gouffran supporting Papiss Cisse. There's a danger, however, that this will make Newcastle too open, and expose their deep midfielders to City's direct attacking. Toure, in particular, could get the run of the midfield - with five goals in his last six games against Newcastle, they're one of his favoured opponents.
Therefore, with Cabella a huge injury doubt, Vurnon Anita could come into the side in a deep-lying position alongside Colback, which would allow Sissoko to push higher up the pitch. This seems a more cautious, and more logical, approach against such strong opposition.
Where can Newcastle get the upper hand? Well, on counter-attacks they're likely to have speed on the break and look to get Perez and Ameobi or Gouffran forward quickly past the Manchester City full-backs, although they're both inconsistent with their decision-making. Cabella might be able to pull the strings in midfield, especially as City more open with Toure in the side.
Realistically, however, Newcastle will do well to score - they haven't in their last four league matches against City.
This is, however, a game which could open out significantly after half-time. Newcastle have scored 71% of their goals in the second half of Premier League games this season, the highest in the division, while City's number of goals in the second half, 31, is also the highest.
Therefore, don't be surprised if things start cautiously, before becoming much more frantic after half-time. City haven't been entirely reliable at home this season, but I simply can't see Carver frustrating Manuel Pellegrini.
It's difficult to know how to use these statistics - there are various possible approaches. But, with City likely to win the game, and with Aguero possibly not 100% fit and a host of attacking substitutes waiting to make an impact, I'll back City to win the game after the break. Draw/Man City in the Half Time/Full Time market is available at around 4.84/1, which seems good value to me.
Back Draw / Man City in Half Time / Full Time at 4.84/1
The Betfair Trader: Alan Thompson
Newcastle United have won three times in the league on the road this season, victorious at West Brom (0-2), Hull City (0-3) and Tottenham Hotspur (1-2). They have also already won at the Etihad Stadium when they defeated Manchester City in the Capital One Cup (0-2).
However, prior to that shock result, the Magpies' record against City in Manchester was played ten, lost eight, drawn two, with Newcastle failing to score in the last five! The Geordies have injury problems to contend with. Cheick Tiote has returned from the African Cup of Nations with a knee injury and Paul Dummett may not play again this season.
City’s last outing saw them beat Stoke City 4-1 at the Britannia Stadium, that victory though was City’s first win in their last five Premier League starts and has given them a doubt over the fitness of Sergio Aguero, who picked up a back injury. New signing Wilfried Bony and Yaya Toure have returned from the African Cup of Nations and are expected to play a part. We may not see the strongest City lineup, however, as three days after this game they will be entertaining Barcelona in the Champions League.
When Newcastle have visited the top five away this season they have been comprehensively beaten, conceding 13 and scoring only twice in four games. While I don’t see Manchester City slipping up here, I do think they might have one eye on the midweek visit of Barcelona and therefore maybe the margin of victory not as high as it possibly could be. For that reason, I will be backing Manchester City to to win 1-0 @ 9.0 and 2-0 @ 7.4 giving dutched odds of approx 4.0