Key Talking Points to Watch Ahead of Manchester City vs. Newcastle United

Alex Gruber@agruber6Featured ColumnistAugust 12, 2014

Key Talking Points to Watch Ahead of Manchester City vs. Newcastle United

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    "The Engineer" ponders during City's loss to Arsenal for the Community Shield.
    "The Engineer" ponders during City's loss to Arsenal for the Community Shield.Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Manchester City's season did not get off to the best of starts on Sunday. A 3-0 loss at the hands of FA Cup holders Arsenal cost the reigning Premier League champions their first real silverware of the campaign, the FA Community Shield.

    As such, it's now time for Manuel Pellegrini and his crew to look ahead to next Sunday's Premier League opener away to Newcastle United.

    The Magpies have vastly overhauled their roster, with Alan Pardew once again reaching out to France and Holland to pluck new players. Their 10th-place finish last season was an improvement over 2012-13's 16th, and fans will be hoping for further progress up the table this time around.

    The league's opening weekend is always cause for excitement, and this clash should prove no different. Read on for a rundown of some of the key areas worth taking note of ahead of this showdown.

New Signings Abound

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    Emmanuel Riviere and Jack Colback are just two of Newcastle's new recruits.
    Emmanuel Riviere and Jack Colback are just two of Newcastle's new recruits.Ross Setford/Associated Press

    Both teams enter the new Premier League campaign having totally revitalized their rosters.

    Manchester City were slapped with a restricted transfer budget under UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules, but have still managed to do great business. Adding Bacary Sagna on a free transfer was a great start, while adding Willy Caballero from Malaga gives Joe Hart something to worry about.

    Of course, they've finally snagged the Porto duo they'd been chasing since January: Fernando and Eliaquim Mangala. The latter signed on Monday after a quite protracted saga and will shore up the defensive ranks to spell Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis.

    Also added were Bruno Zuculini and Frank Lampard. The former greatly impressed during preseason play having been brought in from Racing Club, and was confirmed as a City player last week.

    Lampard signed with New York City FC last month after over a decade at Chelsea, and will be in Manchester for the first few months of the season to stay match fit. He also brings a wealth of experience and, crucially, is English—which will help City meet homegrown regulations both domestically and abroad.

    Newcastle have not been slouches in the transfer market, either.

    Mathieu Debuchy made his exit to Arsenal, but Alan Pardew snapped up a solid replacement in Netherlands international Daryl Janmaat. The former Feyenoord man will certainly bring solid attacking play similar to what fans have seen from Debuchy.

    An attack that was lacking for goals after the sale of Yohan Cabaye and injuries to Loic Remy was bolstered with the addition of Monaco's Emmanuel Riviere. Ajax midfielder Siem de Jong was also brought in to play a No. 10 or second-striker role, having scored a good glut of goals in Amsterdam.

    Their midfield was also reinforced with the signings of Jack Colback from bitter rivals Sunderland and Remy Cabella from Montpellier. Colback's transfer was a contentious one, a free transfer that the Black Cats stated would leave a "bitter taste," as per the club's official website.

    All these players ought to play prominent roles for their sides through the slog of the typical English season, and could get their chances to make an impression on their new fans on Sunday.

Preseason Form

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    Jesus Navas powered City past Sporting KC.
    Jesus Navas powered City past Sporting KC.Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

    Between the World Cup and the Premier League opener rests a month or so for teams to get back into the swing of things in preparation for what lies ahead. Both of these teams have done quite a bit of traveling and played a good number of matches in the last few weeks.

    City's preseason just ended with a disastrous 3-0 Community Shield loss to Arsenal, but their form before last Sunday wasn't terrible.

    They split two games in Scotland before heading to the United States for four matches. A comfortable 4-1 win over Sporting Kansas City preceded a 5-1 trouncing of AC Milan. But a pair of 2-2 draws—and subsequent shootout losses—knocked them out of the International Champions Cup.

    Stevan Jovetic and Jesus Navas were a good level above their teammates and opposition throughout the summer and will likely play big roles this season. Jovetic's five goals in three ICC games got him off to a super start in the absence of Alvaro Negredo while Navas was his usual firecracker down the right.

    Newcastle's summer schedule was a bit busier than City's, bouncing around between England, New Zealand and Germany. They picked up wins over the likes of Sydney FC, Wellington Phoenix and Schalke while losing to Oldham and Malaga.

    They finished off their preseason on a better note than City as well, picking up a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad at St. James' Park.

    New signings Cabella and Riviere have had solid starts to their English careers, bagging a combined five goals. As discussed earlier, the Magpies attack left a lot to be desired at times, so this is certainly a welcome sign.

    Whether they can keep the good times rolling at home this Sunday, of course, is a different story entirely.

The Managerial Hot Seat

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    No explanation necessary.
    No explanation necessary.Jon Super/Associated Press

    This one really only applies to one side of the opening match, but it still looms pretty large.

    Manuel Pellegrini's job is not under any threat. His superb opening season saw his side win a domestic double and clear the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in the club's history. Plus, his overall demeanor and approach to the game make him more likable than his predecessor Roberto Mancini.

    Suffering the same fate as the Italian—being sacked in the late stages of a failed season—is all but impossible to imagine.

    Alan Pardew, on the other hand, is not exactly on the good side of the Toon Army.

    The above image comes from a home match in April as his club were mired in a horrid stretch that saw them lose 14 of their final 20 matches after sitting sixth in the table. This included a span of six straight losses and two separate three-match losing streaks.

    That they still managed a top-half finish through this is remarkable in its own right.

    The jump up to fifth in 2011-12 was a shocker, and the plummet down to 16th the next season was perhaps a bigger one. Despite the poor finish to the season, at the very least it was a decent bounce-back from Pardew's men.

    But the boss got himself in some hot water after his headbutt on Hull player David Meyler during a 4-1 victory over the Tigers in March. A seven-match ban followed, during which his team lost six times.

    Overall, the horrid second half of the season and that ignominious incident have left Pardew under massive pressure from his side's fans. Perhaps that will act as motivation for both as they look to open their season with a win over the defending league champions.

    What else should we look out for in the season opener? Comment below and follow me on Twitter.