Newcastle are visited by reigning champions Manchester City on Saturday (12:45 GMT, live on Sky Sports), with the home team looking to end an unenviable record of just one win in their last seven Premier League fixtures.
The Magpies achieved a superb fifth place finish last season but have found the going much tougher this time around and are 14th in the table with just 17 points from their 16 matches to date.
We are not yet at the half way point of the season, but Newcastle have already lost seven times, just four less than in the whole of the last season. Five of those defeats have come in their last six matches, the most recent being Monday’s 2-1 defeat away to Fulham.
Newcastle started the match very poorly and both the goals they conceded were sloppy. Yet they also saw two shots cleared off the line and another, from Fabricio Coloccini bounce back off the post, and could perhaps consider themselves unfortunate not to come away with a point.
It was not the first time this season that defensive carelessness has cost Newcastle points and their defensive record in general has worsened since last season. In 2011/12, Newcastle conceded an average of 1.34 goals per match, whereas this season they have conceded 1.44 per match.
That is not a huge difference and is only worth an extra three or four goals conceded over the course of an entire season, but allied to a declining goal output is contributing to Newcastle’s difficulties in picking up points.
Alan Pardew’s men scored an average of 1.47 goals per match last season, but have managed just 1.13 per match this time around. They have become reliant on the goalscoring prowess of Demba Ba, whose 10 goals represent 55.6% of Newcastle’s total to date, and are not functioning effectively as a collective in the final third.
The primary problem has been finding a formation that suits both Ba and his compatriot Papiss Demba Cisse. Ba is performing, but Cisse, so prolific in the second half of last season, has scored just twice this season. The pair are too similar and do not provide sufficient variation to cause major problems to opposition defences.
Pardew will need to find a solution in good time. With influential midfield Yoann Cabaye unlikely to be back in action before February, Newcastle need Ba and Cisse, two of their best players, to both be firing on all cylinders if they are to move up the Premier League table.
Pardew’s opposite number Roberto Mancini had problems of his own in attack this past weekend. An abject performance from Mario Balotelli contributed to City going in at half time 2-0 down to local rivals United in the Manchester derby.
The introduction of Carlos Tevez for Balotelli early in the second half precipitated a City fight back that saw them pull the match back to 2-2 with five minutes to play. Robin Van Persie then scored an deflected injury time free kick to consign City to a defeat that saw them fall six points behind their neighbours at the Premier League’s summit.
City are second in the table with 33 points from 16 matches, but have failed to match the high standards they set in last season’s title-winning campaign. Their defensive record is similar, but they are scoring far fewer goals than last season and look a lot less fluid in their attacking movements.
Yaya Toure was a consistent driving force from midfield last season but has been a shadow of his former self this time around. David Silva, too, has struggled to maintain his level from the title-winning campaign, managing just one goal and two assists in his 11 matches to date.
The goals of Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko will still be enough to tip the balance in City’s favour against a fair number of opponents, as demonstrated by their undefeated record (three wins, four draws) away from home in the Premier League this season.
However, as the club’s failed Champions League campaign can attest, against the very best sides City currently lack the necessary coherence to emerge victorious.
Newcastle v Man City Betting Tips Verdict
City may be facing difficulties matching last season’s performances, but Newcastle are in the midst of a wretched run of form and are unlikely to offer particularly taxing opposition.
City will be confident of keeping things tight defensively, and with an array of quality forwards – Balotelli excluded – will be similarly assured of their ability to score the goal or two necessary to take all three points.
- Bet on Manchester City to win @ best odds of 4/6 with Bet365, Paddy Power, Coral.
- City have kept six clean sheets this season, while Manchester United and West Ham have both shown that it is possible to stop Newcastle from scoring on home soil. City also won 2-0 when the sides last met at St James’ Park in May. Therefore, back Manchester City ‘To Win To Nil’ @ 2/1 with Ladbrokes.