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Manchester City vs Newcastle United: 26/12/2020 – match preview and predicted starting XIs

Manchester City vs Newcastle United

Date: 26/12/2020

Time: 20:00

Venue: Etihad Stadium

Referee: Andre Marriner

TV: BT Sport

Manchester City welcome Newcastle United to the Etihad, after cruising to the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup to set up a much-awaited derby clash against arch-rivals Manchester United.

Newcastle United, unfortunately, did not make it through to the semis, crashing out on the back of a 1-0 away defeat to Brentford in which a fairly strong XI was named. This has only intensified the pressure on Steve Bruce, whose words at full-time indicated that he was accepting of the seemingly inevitable pink slip coming his way.

Having been comprehensively beaten by Leeds last midweek, a scrappy 1-1 draw at home to 10-men Fulham definitely did not do him any favours. Making the cup semis for the first time in 45 years might have turned that around, but it wasn’t to be so. The Magpies will now be forced to end their year with games against Manchester City and Liverpool, and potentially also down a head coach if the rumours are to be believed. It marks a complete antithesis of the season that could have been, had the takeover by the Middle Eastern consortium gone through.

While antithesis would be a strong word to apply to Manchester City’s fortunes, they too, need to turn around their fortunes in the league. They finally returned to winning ways away to a rejuvenated Southampton side and followed that up with a 4-1 beating of Arsenal, admittedly helped greatly by opposition mistakes and the absence of VAR. They have looked quite strong in the cup competitions, both the Carabao and the Champions League, and Guardiola will be urging his players to carry the same determination to the league as well.

A very tough fixture schedule awaits, as City play Sunday, Tuesday, Sunday and then Tuesday again, with no “easy” matches at all. Guardiola’s side will likely be heavily rotated for all of these, and Newcastle must pounce on this opportunity if Steve Bruce is to win the fans back after the spell he’s just had.

Team News

Manchester City

Aymeric Laporte returned to the starting XI midweek and got on the scoresheet against the Gunners. He was at fault for Lacazette’s goal, and given the delicate situation surrounding his playing time, maybe relegated to the bench once more. Oleksandr Zinchenko was a slight doubt for the Arsenal game, but started and completed the 90 minutes. He should drop to the bench for this one.

Eric Garcia is Guardiola’s only injury worry, and is ruled out for Saturday’s game. Sergio Aguero featured for the last 15 minutes in London, and may make another substitute appearance against one of his favourite opponents.

Newcastle United

Captain Jamaal Lascelles and fan-favourite Allan Saint-Maximin are presently ailing from the long-term effects of the novel coronavirus, in what Steve Bruce described as a “frightening” experience for the pair. Javier Manquillo and Fabian Schar too, are ruled out due to COVID-19. We really hope all players make a full recovery very soon. Federico Fernandez missed the Brentford game due to fatigue and will be evaluated before a final decision is made on his involvement for the City game.

In some good injury news, Martin Dubravka has returned to first-team training this week, and was pictured sporting a wide smile! Coming off the back of a lengthy layoff, and with Karl Darlow impressing in his absence, there is no reason for Steve Bruce to rush his player of the season back into action. I personally think he will not be risked for the game.

Predicted Starting XIs

Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Mendy; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan; Ferran Torres, Jesus, Sterling

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Darlow; Yedlin, Clark, Hayden, Lewis; Matt Ritchie, Shelvey, Longstaff, Almiron; Joelinton, Wilson

Predicted Scoreline: Manchester City 2-0 Newcastle

I expect City’s defensive form to continue, and with the sheer amount of absentees in the Newcastle backline, I believe De Bruyne and co should be good to get on the scoresheet and kill off the game with a second.

Ayush Verma

20. Student at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. Manchester City correspondent for 90MAAT

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