With a new manager on board and in the region of £100 million lavished on new players, Manchester City will be looking to get their season off to a strong start when they host Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium on Monday (20:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).
Roberto Mancini’s successful three and a half year reign at the club came to an end at the conclusion of last season following a trophyless campaign that saw the club finish well short of local rivals Manchester United in the title race and again fail to progress beyond the group stage of the Champions League.
Former Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini is the man charged with improving on that performance and the Chilean has certainly pushed his new squad hard in pre-season, with club captain Vincent Kompany describing it as the hardest of his career.
Pellegrini has promised to bring a little more flair to City’s play and his hopes of doing so have been boosted by the club’s dealings in the transfer market, which have resulted in four quality players being added to his squad.
Fernandinho is a strong, athletic central midfielder capable of making a contribution in the final third; Steven Jovetic is a supremely talented young striker; Jesus Navas is a natural winger blessed with pace and directness; and Alvaro Negredo is a good reference point up front, scorer of 25 goals for an average Sevilla side last season.
Pellegrini has exhibited a preference for the 4-2-2-2 formation in his career to date and City appear likely to start the season in a lop-sided version of that layout, with David Silva tucking in from the left and Navas staying wide on the right. It is a formation that could, at times, resemble a 4-2-1-3, with Jovetic or Sergio Aguero drifting to the left of the attack and Silva moving infield behind the forwards.
City were guilty of being unable to break down obdurate opponents on certain occasions last season and the addition of greater width in attack and drive from midfield should combine to largely alleviate that problem.
Pellegrini will be without Matija Nastasic for this opening match of the campaign, with the Serbian defender yet to fully shake off an ankle injury. He will, though, be able to call on Aguero, who has overcome a knee injury to put himself in contention for selection on Monday night.
In direct contrast to their opponents, Newcastle are yet to spend a penny on a permanent transfer so far this summer, with their only acquisition to date being the loan signing of QPR striker Loic Remy. In fairness, the club did spend £20 million on six new players in January to aid their fight against relegation, but manager Alan Pardew may nevertheless have hoped to add to his squad in pre-season.
Pardew’s position has been undermined by the arrival of garrulous former Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear, a friend of club owner Mike Ashley, as sporting director. Kinnear has talked a good game but is yet to bring a major signing of his own choosing to the club. As long as he looms above, Pardew will be concerned for his future.
Newcastle endured a very poor season last time around, with the excellent fifth place finish of the season before giving way to a campaign of struggles that eventually saw them finish just five points and two places clear of the bottom three. Injuries, most notably to midfielder Yohan Cabaye, played their part, but Pardew must also take his share of the blame for relying on crude, route one counter-attacking football for much of the campaign.
With the ever-creative Cabaye back to full fitness and the January recruits from France having had time to settle in, Newcastle should be a stronger force that last season, regardless of whether any new faces are added before deadline day. A failure to improve is likely to spell the end for Pardew.
Newcastle will be without Ryan Taylor and Remy for the trip to Manchester, with the new signing expected to miss the first month of the season with a calf injury, while Pardew will also be sweating on the fitness of Jonas Gutierrez, who has been suffering from a hamstring complaint.
Manchester City vs Newcastle United Betting Tips Verdict
City won comprehensively when these sides met at the Etihad last season and are, in fact, unbeaten in their last 13 matches against Newcastle, having won each of the last seven encounters.
The Citizens have strengthened their squad over the summer and with a new well-respected and highly competent manager at the helm should have little problem getting their campaign off to a good start with a comfortable victory over Newcastle on Monday night.
- Bet on Manchester City -1.5 on an Asian Handicap @ best odds of 7/8 (almost evens) with Bet365.
- Negredo scored on his first start for each of his last two clubs (Almeria and Sevilla) and comes into his City debut having scored in Spain’s friendly victory over Ecuador in midweek. Back Negredo to score at anytime @ best odds of evens with Coral or SkyBet.