Newcastle may struggle to put a dent in Man City
Premier League champions set for routine win
BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday
Newcastle fans fondly remember the early years of the Premier League when their team took a fearless attitude into every game.
But times have changed dramatically and even the most ardent member of the Toon Army would struggle to make a case for them avoiding defeat at Manchester City.
Newcastle will probably be on the ropes for most of the match as Rafa Benitez prepares an ultra-defensive strategy similar to the tactics he used in last Sunday's 2-1 loss at home to Chelsea.
Benitez was criticised for his cautious approach to that match, although it almost paid off with the Magpies holding firm at 0-0 until a controversial 76th-minute penalty which allowed Eden Hazard to break the deadlock.
At that point Benitez changed tack, bringing on striker Yoshinori Muto for defender Fabian Schar.
It paid off initially when Joselu levelled but Newcastle's defensive shape had been unsettled by the substitutions and it was no great surprise when DeAndre Yedlin's own goal settled the outcome.
In the post-match interview Benitez argued that his tactics were necessary to allow Newcastle to stay in the game and he seems likely to try something similar at the Etihad.
However, blanket defence is something City come up against almost every week and they have been overcoming it regularly.
The absence of Kevin De Bruyne denies them the quality and vision of one of the best passers in the Premier League.
But David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan are experts at unlocking tight defences and demonstrated their creative skills as City cruised to a 6-1 success over Huddersfield in their last home match.
City were given more problems by Wolves last Saturday and needed a thumping Aymeric Laporte header to rescue a 1-1 draw.
Wolves were clever and showed a way forward for City's opponents by choosing their moments to press and win the ball high up the pitch.
However, they were able to carry out those tactics because they have some excellent players including a high-quality midfield duo in Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves.
Newcastle are nowhere near as strong in the centre of the park although they might have better options than last week with Jonjo Shelvey returning to full training.
Shelvey has a decent passing range but there might not be many targets for him to hit because Newcastle's attack looks woefully inadequate.
Summer signing Salomon Rondon scored his first Newcastle goal as the Magpies crashed 3-1 at Nottingham Forest in Wednesday's EFL Cup second-round clash and he may have done enough to retain a starting berth.
But the Venezuelan is likely to be isolated for long periods and his chances of scoring are considered slim by the layers, who make him 22-1 to net the opener.
Several City players are priced up shorter and right-back Benjamin Mendy is the same price despite having scored just two league goals in his career.
But those odds are understandable because Mendy's role in the game will be to bomb forward at every opportunity while Rondon is likely to be working his socks off to offer some support to a stretched Newcastle rearguard.
If City score early in the game it may turn into an exercise in damage-limitation with Newcastle anxious to avoid a hammering and keen to protect their goal difference.
They lost 3-1 at the Etihad last season – nicking a second-half consolation when Jacob Murphy took advantage of a defensive mistake.
However, City's backline have looked focused this season and goalkeeper Ederson should pick up a second shutout in a routine victory.
Manchester City to win 3-0
1pt 11-2 general
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Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Danilo (ankle) and Claudio Bravo (Achilles) are out.
Jonjo Shelvey (thigh) and Jamaal Lascelles (ankle) are back in full training but Isaac Hayden is suspended and Florian Lejeune (knee) is out.
Manchester City have scored at least three goals in their last six home league games against Newcastle.
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