Tactical Battles That Will Shape Newcastle United's Clash with Manchester City
Given that Arsenal don't play at Aston Villa until Monday night, Manchester City could go back to the top of the Premier League table when they face Newcastle United at St. James's Park on Sunday afternoon.
City's focus has been on the cup competitions in the past week, but the resumption of their title charge will be compelling viewing as they travel to face a side who have surprised many onlookers this season.
Alan Pardew's men must have feared the worst when they were thumped 4-0 at City in their opening match of the season, but since then they've recovered and impressed many in earning victories at the likes of Tottenham and Manchester United, as well as beating Chelsea at home.
Manuel Pellegrini will know that this is a tough assignment then, and here are five key battlegrounds which could determine the fate of the contest.
Loic Remy vs. Vincent Kompany
Ahead of this weekend, only Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero have scored more Premier League goals this season than Newcastle's Loic Remy.
The French international will provide Vincent Kompany with a tough assignment on Sunday then, as City's sometimes fragile away form comes under one of its more difficult tests.
Remy loves to drift in from wide areas, whilst his movement in the penalty area is also up there with any of the forwards in the division and so Kompany is sure to keep a close eye on the 27-year-old in a battle which should prove crucial.
Davide Santon vs. Jesus Navas
Jesus Navas isn't a certain starter here, but if City are looking both to widen and lengthen the big St. James's Park pitch in a bid to get in behind their opponents, then he could be a more-than-useful weapon.
The former Sevilla man has improved his displays away from the Etihad Stadium the longer that his first season in English football has gone on. And if he can hold his position on the right flank, then he'll frequently test the Newcastle left-back Davide Santon.
The Italian isn't always the most solid of performers, but in this rejigged Toon defence, he's going to have to be because otherwise there will be a pressure and a nervousness that Navas is quick and intelligent enough to expose.
Moussa Sissoko vs. Fernandinho
Yohan Cabaye is a doubt for Sunday and that will only put more of an onus on fellow Frenchman Moussa Sissoko to get forward from midfield and support the attack.
The former Toulouse midfielder really should be getting more goals for a player of his quality and power, with his stunning strike against West Bromwich Albion at the end of November still his only Premier League goal this season.
Perhaps he could take inspiration from Fernandinho, who has found his shooting boots recently with a double strike against Arsenal and the opener at Swansea, but it will be the Brazilian's holding midfield ability and his work to pick up the runs of Sissoko that will be most important here.
Massadio Haidara vs. Samir Nasri
Mathieu Debuchy is suspended after picking up a brainless red card in the loss at West Brom on New Year's Day, so Massadio Haidara is likely to be utilised in the right-back position just as he was in the FA Cup loss to Cardiff.
The young Frenchman could be facing a hugely difficult task against his fellow countryman Samir Nasri, whose stellar form might have gone largely unnoticed outside of Manchester this season but who has become one of City's key players under Manuel Pellegrini.
Drifting in from the City left, Nasri's movement and positioning might well outfox the inexperienced Haidara, for whom this could be a first Premier League start of the season after coming off the bench in Newcastle's last three matches in the division.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa vs. Alvaro Negredo
This could be the key battle of the contest.
With Fabricio Coloccini out with yet another damaging injury, Newcastle are likely to be relying on Steven Taylor and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa in the centre of defence, where they'll be coming up against one of the in-form forwards in the division.
Alvaro Negredo showcased his many talents yet again with a clinical hat-trick in the 6-0 Capital One Cup semi-final victory over West Ham, and he might look to drift on to the frequently jittery French defender and look to run beyond him.
Negredo never stops moving, and it is that movement which could drag Yanga-Mbiwa out of position, opening up the space for those in sky blue to exploit.
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