Man City v Newcastle
Saturday 3rd October, 3pm
“There was one common trait across the Citizens’ past five outings – both they and their opponents made it onto the scoresheet. They are the Premier League side on the longest draw-free sequence, not actually sharing spoils in any competition in 26 fixtures.”
According to some pundits, they had the Premier League sewn-up in mid-September after opening with five straight wins. A fortnight and two defeats to West Ham and Tottenham later, they aren’t even top of the table anymore, leaving everyone confused as to the state of the title race.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men remain odds-on in the winner market at 1.94, but that status will be surrendered if they suffer a third successive top-flight reverse against victory-less Newcastle.
They go into this game short of defenders with Gael Clichy, Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala competing with Fabian Delph for treatment-table space, while they will be light on attacking options too if Samir Nasri, Wilfried Bony and Kelechi Iheanacho don’t recover from less severe injuries.
The Magpies are in that iffy predicament of thriving in the type of fixture that rarely yield triumphs – antagonising Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea yet having just two points to show for it – and then screwing up easier home encounters like Watford and Sheffield Wednesday, losing to both.
That pattern does at least allow them to undertake an away assignment as intimidating as Man City with belief that, if the hosts underrate them, they have a chance of adding to their three Premier League points. After all, they are the only of leaders Man United’s seven visitors this term not to be beaten.
One excuse that Steve McClaren will be entitled to turn to if that doesn’t materialise is an unusually enormous autumnal injury list. Steven Taylor, Curtis Good, Massadio Haidara and Emmanuel Riviere are definitely out, while – sharp intake of breath – Karl Darlow, Paul Dummett, Jack Colback, Cheick Tiote, Sylvain Marveaux, Rolando Aarons, Siem de Jong and Papiss Cisse are all doubts.
This feels like the exact kind of occasion that a form-shorn Newcastle would go out and inexplicably win. Their W column was empty seven matches into 2014/15 and they suddenly went from that to prevailing at Tottenham in week nine and conquering Liverpool in week ten, and they followed an early run of four points from five games in 2013/14 by sinking Chelsea and Spurs without conceding.
There was also a 2-0 Capital One Cup success at the Etihad Stadium last October to inspire faith, though the far more instructive trend is that Man City have won seven consecutive home league clashes with them, the most recent three 4-0, 4-0 and 5-0.
If they approach the contest properly, there is no reason why they should fail, but their September results – WLLWLW – were so erratic that this writer prefers to focus his betting on other markets…
Both Teams to Score
Even as they swung irrationally from joy to despair, there was one common trait across the Citizens’ past five outings – both they and their opponents made it onto the scoresheet. There was a 2-1 win, two 2-1 defeats, a 4-1 victory and a 4-1 humbling. With Newcastle’s last two league games also rewarding both-teams-to-score backers, that is an appealing wager at 2.14.
However, there is another Man City streak to be aware of: they are the Premier League side on the longest draw-free sequence, not actually sharing spoils in any competition in 26 fixtures since being held by Hull on February 7. This incentivises punters to squeeze the extra value out of the two result-and-both-teams-to-score eventualities that don’t involve parity.