The chase continues this weekend as City face Newcastle in their attempt to catch league-leaders Chelsea. With thirteen games left it’s not quite squeaky bum time but led by a Chelsea side that look unlikely to falter, every point is vital to City at this stage. City have dominated Newcastle in the Premier League era, last dropping points in a 2-2 draw in 2008 and you have to go back to 2005 to find the last time Newcastle recorded a victory over the blues. If past results are anything to go by City should win at a stroll and with Newcastle recording just one win in their last six games Sergio Aguero et al are clearly the favourites.
Favourites perhaps, but this season has been anything but straightforward. A misfiring attack and inconsistent defensive displays have seen City pick up half the available points in their last six games and draws against Hull and Everton show that mid-table opposition are capable of snatching points from Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
Good news for City is the return of Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony from the African Cup of Nations, and the hope is that they will sooth some of the ills plaguing City. Much hope hangs on Toure’s return to the steamrolling form of last season but with an injury-strewn start to this season and a gruelling international competition under his belt the worry is that the workload placed on the 31 year old’s shoulders will prove detrimental. Registering seven goals in 11 games before leaving for the AFCON, Toure’s worth to the team is long established and City’s faithful will be delighted if Yaya can reach this level of form again.
Focus will be on January signing Wilfried Bony and how he slots into the line-up. A target for Newcastle before moving to Swansea in 2013, Bony has proven to be prolific against the Magpies, scoring three in his last two games against them. Will he start? Pellegrini has employed Aguero as a lone central striker this season to great effect and with James Milner’s recent form as well as strong displays from David Silva and Samir Nasri against Stoke, service to the front man shouldn’t be a problem. Aguero’s first goals since the start of December may well signal a return to the free scoring form that has seen him earn City seven points single handedly, and if this is truly a return to form Pellegrini may have difficulty shoehorning Bony into a side that has found it nigh on impossible to accommodate a partner for Aguero.
It will make for an interesting spectacle and City fans will expect a victory in a home fixture that they cannot afford to lose. If the lethargy that threatened to derail the Stoke game is dispelled and City go at it with purpose from the start then this could provide a result that will keep Chelsea looking over their shoulder.