PL preview: Newcastle United vs. Man City

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  • Man City chasing 18th straight win
  • Newcastle seek 2nd straight win, relegation breathing room
  • City lead PL by 12 points; Newcastle up to 15th

Manchester City ticked one gigantic box of history in the last two weeks, but now Pep Guardiola‘s side must continue its dominance and survive another 19 games if they are to achieve the unthinkable — finish a Premier League season unbeaten.

Up next is a trip to St. James’ Park to take on Rafa Benitez‘s relegation-battling, up-for-sale Newcastle United on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

With the PL title all but sewn up with half the season still to play — an unthinkable phrase when considering last season’s first-year struggles under Guardiola — the substance to this City side is clear for all to see, but it’s the style with which they’ve thrashed any and all comers this season which is more impressive: 60 goals scored, to just 12 conceded. Thursday will mark the two-month anniversary since City last conceded multiple goals in a game (to woeful West Bromwich Albion, a side without a win in 18 games), just as Saturday will mark three months to the day since Guardiola’s men last failed to score multiple goals in a game.

Of the PL’s top 10 goal scorers (may of which have now played one more game ahead of Wednesday), three don the Sky Blue of City — Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero (both with 12) and Gabriel Jesus (8). Of the PL’s top 10 assist maker thus far, again, three are City players — Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Leroy Sane (all with 8) are tied atop the chart, each with two more than anyone else.

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The task facing Newcastle is a tough one, to put it tightly. It’s not much, but it’s somewhere to begin: the Magpies were improved and borderline prolific on their last outing, picking up a surprising 3-2 win away to West Ham United. The result snapped a nine-game winless skid (eight loss) in PL play, and vaulted Newcastle out of the relegation zone. Even after Tuesday’s Boxing Day fixtures, Benitez’s men have three places and one point of cushion between themselves an 18th place.

INJURIES: Newcastle — OUT: Alexsandar Mitrovic (back); QUESTIONABLE: Mikel Merino (leg), Isaac Hayden (knock) | Man City — OUT: John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (knee)

What they’re saying

Benitez, on ending the skid: “It’s difficult when you have a bad run but we analyzed the games and deserved more from four or five of them. But we lost confidence and it was very important for us to win. It was important for us to have a good performance against a good team, and they started well with pace, then later the long balls and second balls, but we dealt with things well.”

Guardiola, on managing a squad like City’s: “I was a football player. I understand the players in that when they are substituted and don’t play, they are sad and upset. I understand our job is to try and search to find a weakness but I try to have the best relationship with my players as possible. Sometimes, I think Gabriel Jesus deserves to play – and Bernardo Silva and Eliaquim Mangala. The important thing is that they have respect between each other. … I have a lot of respect for Sergio Aguero and all he has done, what he does and what he will do in the future. He will decide everything about his future and his life.”

Prediction

At this point of their record-breaking run, it’s not a matter of if Man City will win, but a matter of by how many will they do so? The answer, on Wednesday, should be, “by at least two or three.”