One of the favorites to win the Premier League this season, Manchester City will open their Premier League campaign with a tricky matchup against Newcastle.
Both of these teams are coming off of disappointing 2012-13 campaigns. The Citizens were pretty dismal in their title defense, finishing 11 points behind Manchester United. Meanwhile, Newcastle went from finishing fifth in 2011-12 to 16th last year, just five points clear of the relegation zone.
Still, both teams have cause for optimism. City were busy on the market this summer, signing Jesus Navas, Stevan Jovetic, Alvaro Negredo and Fernandinho, while Newcastle still have talented players in Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Mathieu Debuchy, Papiss Cisse and Jonas Gutierrez.
Let's break down what promises to be an exciting match.
When: Monday, Aug. 18, at 3 p.m. ET (8 p.m. BST)
Where: Ethiad Stadium, Manchester
Watch: NBC Sports Network
Streaming: NBC Sports Live Extra
What They're Saying
Martin Keown of the Daily Mail gives his prediction for the match, along with comments from both managers:
Manchester City Player to Watch: Jesus Navas
Alongside a manager who seemed to change tactics every other week and a group of talented players that dramatically underachieved—perhaps due to having too many egos in the room—one of City's biggest issues last season was a lack of width in the attack.
For as talented as players like David Silva and Samir Nasri are, they both have a tendency to drift centrally and neither has blazing pace.
Enter Jesus Navas.
The former Sevilla man is a maestro out wide and will once again bring width to a team that desperately needs some. He'll be more than happy slinging crosses into the box from his position on the wing and is the sort of crafty, technical wizard who should fit Manuel Pellegrini's system perfectly.
Very quietly, he could be City's most valuable player this season. We'll get a first glimpse at his impact on the team against Newcastle.
Newcastle Player to Watch: Yohan Cabaye
Ben Arfa may be Newcastle's most dangerous player, and Cisse their goalscorer, but Cabaye holds the key to this team's attack.
A well-rounded midfielder, Cabaye at his best is a dangerous playmaker who will orchestrate Newcastle's attack. While he wasn't in vintage form (like most of his teammates) last season, scoring six goals and adding just two assists, he is capable of far more this season.
There aren't many weaknesses in his game, as he is just as likely to win the ball back on a well-timed tackle as he is to play an incisive pass through to a teammate to spur on the attack. And if given the chance on a free kick, he is more than capable of curling one past the keeper.
Keep an eye on Cabaye—he'll be a busy man against City.
Manchester City Win If...
They don't make any glaring errors. The talent disparity between these teams is palpable, although the talent level between City and most teams is pretty dramatic.
The holdovers from the previous regime buy into Pellegrini's system and execute it properly.
The defense improves from the unit that looked vulnerable at times in the preseason.
Newcastle Win If...
They take advantage of a City back four that has looked shaky this summer.
Papiss Cisse rediscovers his form from two years ago that allowed him to score 13 goals in 14 games for Newcastle, rather than his form last year, in which he scored just eight goals in 36 Premier League appearances.
City come out sloppy and a bit of luck is on the side of the Magpies.
Newcastle are a tough team to peg. There is obvious talent here, but the team was truly dreadful last season (although a slew of injuries didn't help). Still, this is a Manchester City side bursting at the seams with talent, and one unlikely to lose at home.
City win, 3-1.