It's nice to have matches that serve as benchmarks for a team's progress. After some early struggles away from home in the Premier League, things have stabilized with two straight wins over Swansea and Fulham. Newcastle United sit in 8th place in the league, falling further off the pace for a top-4 finish, but still very dangerous. Their head to head record against the other teams in the top 8 is impressive, putting them 4th best. They've won away against Man U and Tottenham, and at home against Chelsea, with a draw against Liverpool.
Notable absences - Newcastle are missing some of their best defenders, including Coloccini, Ryan Taylor, and Debuchy (suspended). Davide Santon, Tim Krul, and Yohan Cabaye have also picked up some knocks lately, and although Krul and Cabaye have been cleared to play, it's unclear how big of a role they will have. Missing 3 of the 4 players that started the season together on the back line is not a great way to win games. Especially against Manchester City.
On paper, this should be a relatively straight forward game. We've beaten Newcastle pretty soundly the past few times we've played them, including a 4-0 drubbing on the opening weekend of the season.
For me, the key area is going to be the transitions between attack and defense. This is the area that Newcastle is so dangerous in, with Sissoko, Ben Arfa, and Cabaye all so deadly going forward. It will be interesting to see how City set up to deal with them. If you read Zac's excellent breakdown of the tactics against West Ham, then you're familiar with how Pellegrini is using Javi Garcia. If it were me, I would play him as cover for the back four, with Fernandinho in front of him, and then Yaya playing a little further up. That way there are 3 central midfielders that can track back and keep possession through the middle.
Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo both played excellent alongside each other, but in fairness, West Ham didn't exactly look dangerous in attack. Their ineptitude going forward allowed City to control the game in the West Ham final third. I don't think that Newcastle are going to be the same way, which could be tricky. They are going to be vulnerable on defense, but the key will be maintaining the pressure on Newcastle without losing shape defensively.
Predicted lineup - Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Kolarov, Garcia, Fernadinho, Yaya, Silva, Nasri, Negredo.
*Disclaimer - This is what I would do, but I suspect that we will start with Dzeko instead of Garcia.