Manchester City travel to Newcastle United on Saturday, hoping to reignite their title hopes.
Although they are only five points behind leaders Liverpool, Man City are scrutinised every time they fail to win, as they look to win an unprecedented fourth Premier League title in a row.
Newcastle were fighting in the top four last season and expected to be there now. But they are just about holding onto a spot in the top half of the table. Nevertheless, they have a good home record this season and will be hoping to make it count this weekend.
With that in mind, it’s time to look ahead with predicted XIs and players to watch for each team.
Newcastle vs Man City predicted XIs
Newcastle predicted XI
There is no end to Newcastle’s injury problems, but that should make predicting their starting XI fairly straightforward. Martin Dubravka is the obvious choice in goal, with Nick Pope injured, while Kieran Trippier shall captain the side from right-back. Dan Burn’s return from injury came at a good time, with Newcastle having struggled at full-back and defence is the best place for the Magpies right now. In midfield, things are a little bare, with Joelinton joining the injury list. That means the midfield trio should be Bruno Guimaraes, Lewis Miley and Sean Longstaff. Up front, Alexander Isak will lead the line in the absence of Callum Wilson, flanked by Anthony Gordon and Miguel Almiron. Even without any players at either the Africa Cup of Nations or Asian Cup, there are still a grand total of 10 absentees for Newcastle, including the banned Sandro Tonali.
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Man City predicted XI
The biggest question for Man City this weekend will be the availability of Erling Haaland, from fans and FPL managers. With an injury like that, Pep Guardiola may want to ease Haaland back, which would mean another start through the middle for Julian Alvarez. Then there’s the question of Kevin De Bruyne. He made his return to the pitch in the FA Cup against Huddersfield, having appeared on the bench in the Premier League last time out. But, again, a return to the starting XI may be too soon. So you’d expect Rodri to be joined in the midfield duo by Rico Lewis, who has become a favourite of Guardiola. Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish are likely to start in attack. Further back, Ederson picks himself, but the makeup of the defence could vary. It feels like Kyle Walker and Josko Gvardiol are the certainties, but the centre-back pairing is harder to call.
Newcastle vs Man City players to watch
Alexander Isak is the man of the moment for Newcastle right now, and it feels like a lot is resting on his shoulders. Since joining Newcastle last summer, Isak has shared attacking responsibilities with Callum Wilson, but lately he has had to do it on his own. The Swede has nine goals in 15 Premier League games this season, at an average of 0.77 per 90 minutes — the fourth-best record in the division among players with at least 10 matches played.
Just two of those goals have come from the penalty spot too, with Isak a real danger from open play. He averages 1.54 shots on target per 90 minutes and an xG of 0.79 per 90, meaning he’s only slightly underperforming at a perfectly expected rate. Isak has also scored four goals in seven games across other competitions, including the only goal in Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Man City to knock them out of the EFL Cup.
The striker’s performances this season have seen him linked with a move away from Newcastle this winter, and in what may be a bit of a worry for fans, chief executive Darren Eales hasn’t ruled out a sale.
On Thursday, it was announced that Newcastle posted a loss of £73.4m for the 2022/23 season, creating a total of £155m over the past three seasons. While Eales insists the club are compliant with FFP, he admits that it may be required to sell in order to improve.
“To put it into perspective, we want to be a top-six sustainable club and Tottenham’s latest accounts available, (total revenue) was £440 million. We are at £250 million, so there is a big step even to the lower end of the top six,” Eales told reporters.
“We have also seen that Manchester City are £710 million in revenue in their latest accounts. There is a long way to go in growing those revenues.
“Any decision we make will always be against the backdrop of the medium to long-term benefit for the club.
“It’s difficult to say specifically on certain players, but I can say that, if we’re going to get to where we want to get to, at times it is necessary to trade your players.”
With Haaland out of the team, Phil Foden has been the one to step up for Man City in recent weeks. The 23-year-old has been directly involved in 11 goals in the Premier League this season, scoring five and providing six assists — one of just three Man City players to hit double figures. Four of those involvements have come in Man City’s past three Premier League games, with one goals and three assists.
In that mini period, no Man City player has provided more assists, created more chances (10), had more shots (11) or completed more take-ons (six) than Foden. He also leads Man City for Expected Assists at 1.31, all of which comes from open play. Foden has been playing through the middle in this period, providing support for Alvarez, but also taking charge when things have been slacking in attack.
“It’s where I want to be – I’m enjoying it a lot,” he said recently of playing in the No.10 role. “Long may that continue. I seem to be playing my best football at the moment and I want to keep doing that.
“You’re a lot more involved [in the centre], there’s a lot more to focus on. You’ve got a lot more people around you. It’s difficult and there’s still things I need to get better on and I’m trying to do that.”