Barely a day seems to pass at the moment without a Manchester City game as we continue behind closed doors to try and conclude this pandemic impacted season.
Since the loss to Southampton in the Premier League at the weekend, Manchester City have undertaken brief conditioning training in preparation to face Newcastle United.
The frequency of these games every 3 days after a 3 month lay off is pushing players to their limits and accordingly it is expected that Pep Guardiola will again rotate his squad. I expect at least 5 or 6 changes in personnel from the defeat last time out.
Unusually though it will not be poor performances leading to the rotation but simply trying to protect players from injury to try and ensure as many as possible are available for when our Cup runs continue.
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It is the first of those games a week on Saturday when we face Arsenal in the FA Cup Semi Final at Wembley which is beginning to loom large on the horizon. Players need to be fit and ready for that amd planning needs to start now.
This may mean even more changes to the team than we can anticipate.
Newcastle will pose a threat on the break and otherwise will most likely sit tight and try to keep our scoring down. City will need to repeat the performance against Southampton in many ways bar the poor finishing.
Newcastle’s ability to hurt City may well depend upon the fitness of a couple of their key players. At the moment the pre match noises coming out of St James Park are suggesting neither Saint-Maxim nor Carroll will be fit, however chances are those claims are little more than attempted mind games.
City will most likely start with Zinchenko and Walker, with maybe a centre back pairing of Otamendi and Stones. Stones and Otamendi both need minutes and it is a chance to go in the shop window for both players.
I think De Bruyne will start and Phil Foden and Rodri will make up the remainder of the midfield. Gundogan will come on for De Bruyne if City are in the clear.
Up front there could even be a surprise with a couple of exciting youth players currently training with the first team squad. However its more likely we will start with a combination of Sterling, Jesus and Mahrez.
City go into this game with a good record against Newcastle at home – 10 victories on the bounce. In fact Steve Bruce has never won at the Etihad. Both those statistics tend to make me nervous!
However City should have too much for Newcastle even if there is not much riding on the game. City should win, meaning we would need just 1 more point to clinch a Champions League place next season.