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Premier League Preview: Manchester City vs. Newcastle United

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  • Man City 4W-1D in last 5 vs. NUFC
  • Magpies won cup game at Etihad in 2014
  • Newcastle leads all-time 71W-39D-67L

This could get ugly.

Manchester City dropped points six times in last season’s title run, and won each and every follow-up match with a combined score line of 19-6.

[ MORE: Dembele sold to Lyon ]

So Newcastle United can enter Saturday’s contest at the Etihad Stadium knowing it will face a feisty bunch of reigning champs when it kicks off against City at 12:30 p.m. ET (Watch live on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Magpies haven’t won a league contest against City in 21 tries, and have just one point this season. Losses to Spurs and Chelsea are sandwiched around a draw at Cardiff, and the Magpies lost a League Cup outing at Nottingham Forest at midweek.

What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola on if Rafa Benitez will use five at the back“Last season he did it against us away and at home, so I don’t know. I didn’t speak with Rafa so I don’t know. We have to adapt. He believes that’s the best way for them to get points and we’re going to adapt and we’ll try to defend well against any system they want to play. We see the quality of our players. I guess the way they’re going to play. After five minutes I’ll know their idea and pick up the behaviors of my players, the way they are training and what we need exactly for that game.”

Benitez on facing Man City“We know that it’s not easy to play against Man City or Chelsea and we know our players better than anybody. We are trying to get a result for the club and for the team. The way to do it? Of course I’d like to play with three strikers and attack them from the beginning and press high. But we have seen a lot of examples of what happens when you try that against Man City. They are really good at counter attacking. When you are in the middle of the pitch they can still kill you in the wide areas. They have pace, ability and runs behind the defenders. Anybody that has played as a defender knows what that means.”

Prediction

Man City runs a bit wild, but Benitez limits the damage to a 4-1 loss.

Premier League Preview: Cardiff City vs. Newcastle

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  • Cardiff City has lost 10 straight league games to Newcastle
  • Newcastle has lost 5 of its last 6 PL games
  • Benitez has lost 3 straight PL games vs newly promoted sides

These teams have both been picked by some to face the drop this year, but if the first result of the season bears any merit, there is promise and hope on each side despite no points gained. Still, a result in this match would go a long way towards building on that foundation as Cardiff City hosts Newcastle at 7:30 a.m. ET live on NBCSN.

Cardiff City was a popular pick to finish bottom of the table in various preseason selections, but they were unable to get by Bournemouth despite a positive showing. They’ll need every point they can muster, and the club’s home opener seems as good a time as any. They’ll have loan signing Harry Arter able to make his debut after he was ineligible to face his parent club last time out, but key midfielder Aron Gunnarrsson is still out due to injury.

[ WATCH LIVE: Cardiff City vs. Newcastle live on NBCSN ]

For Newcastle, Rafa Benitez will not have American international DeAndre Yedlin at his disposal thanks to a knee injury suffered in the season opener, although the injury was “not serious” according to a club release earlier in the week. Otherwise, the Magpies are at full strength, a welcome sight for Benitez who has been forced to fight tooth and nail with club owner Mike Ashley to ring out every bit of squad depth he can convince his boss to grab.

A draw in this match would be disappointing for both clubs, and while each will covet every point they can get, each team will believe there are three points for the taking at Cardiff City Stadium.

What they’re saying

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock on Rafa Benitez: “You’ve only got to look at what the fans are saying and what all the pundits are saying, the one person Newcastle can’t afford to lose is Rafa, they could get away with [losing] any player. His commitment to Newcastle has been fantastic and he’s in his last year now so it’ll be interesting to see how that develops because I think he’ll be targeted worldwide really.”

Manager Rafa Benitez on Newcastle’s transfer window: “Everybody is spending big money on players, but will they all work out? We will see. It will be easier for some of our players as they have been in the Premier League for a year, but now other squads are stronger. Is our starting 11 better than before? I hope so, but we’ll see.”

Prediction

Both teams put up a spirited performance in losing efforts last time out, but Newcastle seems the better equipped to take home the three points at this moment in the season. The Magpies will hit the road and grab all three points with a cagey 1-0 victory.

Season Preview: Will internal turmoil bring Newcastle down?

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Newcastle at a glance:

Premier League (and old First Division) titles: 2 (last: 1959/60)

FA Cups: 5 (last: 1954/55)

League Cups: 0 (best finish: runners-up 1974/75)

FA Community Shield: 1 (1909/10, runners-up 5 times)

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Newcastle’s biggest enemy is itself, and this year might just be the year it brings them down for real.

Soccer’s Jerry Jones has taken flak for years as the Magpies slowly consume themselves from the inside out, yet Mike Ashley continues to trudge on stuck in his ways. No Premier League team would produce a bigger inferno upon relegation than Newcastle. Championship title winners just two years ago, Rafa Benitez has milked everything he can out of a paper-thin squad for the last two years, but if relegation becomes unavoidable, Newcastle’s biggest asset would most certainly walk, and the doom and gloom would spread like wildfire.

It’s somewhat surprpsing that relegation talk swirls after a 10th placed finish last year, but that’s the Benitez effect. The team continues to punch above its weight on paper, all thanks to their all-star manager. Yet the summer transfer window has been another one of frustration, and thus the fan unrest continues.

Can Benitez push the Magpies away from the bottom-tier maelstrom or will Newcastle be pulled into the unescapable cyclone?


Newcastle will finish away from the drop because…everything good Newcastle has stumbled upon the last two years has been attributable to Benitez. With the Spaniard around, most anything is possible. The defense is thin but talented, and the attack has promise. If Newcastle can avoid the injury bug, they can go places.

Newcastle will be relegated because…the squad is razor thin. Florian Lejeune is already out with an ACL tear, and if an injury leaves either Jamaal Lascelles or Martin Dubravka on the sidelines as well, the back line becomes swiss cheese. At the other end there’s a little more depth, but much of the creativity falls to Ayoze Perez, and an injury to the wrong place in that department could bring the team down as well. Mike Ashley hasn’t done enough this summer to instill confidence in fans.

Best possible XI:

———————Dubravka———————

——Yedlin—Lascelles—Schar——Dummett——

——Ritchie—Shelvey—Diame——Atsu——

—————Perez——————

—————Gayle——————

Transfers In: Yoshinori Muto ($12.4 million, FSV Mainz), Fabian Schar ($4.6 million, Deportivo La Coruna), Martin Dubravka ($4.6 million, Sparta Prague), Ki Sung-Yueng (Free, Swansea City), Kenedy (Loan, Chelsea).

Transfers Out: Aleksandar Mitrovic ($23.3 million, Fulham), Mikel Merino ($12 million, Real Sociedad), Chance Mbemba ($9.2 million, Porto), Matz Sels ($4.6 million, RC Strasbourg), Massadio Haidara (Free, Lens), Stuart Findlay (Free, Kilmarnock), Jack Colback (Loan, Nottingham Forest).

Ranking their offseason: C

Newcastle received nearly $25 million for Aleksandar Mitrovic from Fulham – a total that was basically a foregone conclusion for weeks, pending Newcastle securing his replacement in Muto – and promptly sat on it. While useful players have been brought in with Schar replacing the injured Lejeune and Dubravka likely to start in net, the team wasn’t necessarily improved in the transfer market, and the squad still has plenty of holes. If they go down, this transfer window will be largely viewed as a big reason why.

Star player: While Ayoze Perez is the lifeblood of the Newcastle attack, nobody is more important to this squad than Jamaal Lascelles. Newcastle resisted heavy interest for his services this summer, and they will be far better off for it. The 24-year-old has developed into one of the best central defenders in the Premier League, and was heavily considered for a spot in the England World Cup squad this summer. If anything happens to him, this squad will come crumbling to pieces, and he would likely leave if they are relegated.

Coach’s Corner: While Lascelles is the most valuable player, nobody is more important to this team than Rafa Benitez. Mike Ashley’s greatest accomplishment was convincing the Spaniard to commit to the club through the one season in the Championship, and it has paid off since. Still, Ashely does little to back his manager, and Benitez has not held back. After a 4-0 defeat to Braga in preseason, Benitez said, “The fans have to be concerned, we are concerned. I’m really worried.” Should the club misstep at all this season, Benitez would surely depart for a bigger club. He’s certainly earned the right.

PST Predicts: While much of this preview has been quite doom and gloom, Newcastle has enough prized possessions to stay up this season. The most concerning part of this offseason has to be the newly promoted clubs spending vast quantities of money to improve, but there should be enough teams worse than Newcastle to prevent the Magpies from suffering heartbreak. Just enough. They should finish around 15th in the table after quite the scare.

Newcastle’s Benitez “worried” about team after blowout loss

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The Newcastle United manager is nervous about an upcoming season thanks to a disappointing transfer window.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

[ MORE: Arsenal beats Chelsea in PKs ]

For the second-straight season Rafa Benitez is ringing the warning bell after a 4-0 loss to Braga in a preseason friendly at the Portuguese side on Wednesday.

From The Shields Gazette:

“I’m really worried,” Benitez said. “We’ll try to change it in the next 10 days, I don’t know how. We can talk, and be close (to a deal), but after we are not so close. I have no idea.”

Benitez started an XI which featured 10 players from his Championship side in 2016-17. Only goalkeeper Martin Dubravka wasn’t on the promoted side.

And perhaps that was to send a message, with new additions Fabian Schar and Ki Sung-yeung and Chelsea loanee Kenedy not in the squad at all.

The Magpies will have ex-Mainz forward Yoshimori Muto once he gains a work permit, but the depth is simply not there.

Benitez wanted competition for his weakest link, left back Paul Dummett, but hasn’t gotten one. A striker like Salomon Rondon is yet to get over the line, and he wants help with a No. 10 as well.

Unfortunately, the message just isn’t received by manager Mike Ashley. From The Chronicle Live:

“I can’t say too much about players coming because in the end it depends on so many things and we don’t finish the deals.”

The Magpies may survive another Premier League season, but Benitez has not signed a new contract and more action like this ensures they won’t be able to hire an experienced coach of his ilk any time soon.

Analyzing Benitez’s risk in reported Mitrovic out, Rondon in moves

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As Newcastle cut ties with Aleksandar Mitrovic ahead of the Serbian striker Fulham move and Salomon Rondon seemingly moves into his old squad spot, it’s worth asking, at least in theory, whether the Magpies can defy the age math of the move.

There’s a load of well-earned respect amongst the Geordies for manager Rafa Benitez, who has rarely had time or patience for the productive but combustible Mitrovic.

[ MORE: Pochettino hopeful for signings as injuries pile up, deadline looms ]

Still just 23, the powerful forward had an amazing half-season on loan at Fulham and was a handful for defenses at the World Cup.

But Benitez has kept a short leash on Mitrovic since he took the reigns at St. James Park. Mitrovic scored 12 goals in 17 Championship matches for Fulham after scoring just five times in 31 appearances between the Championship and Premier League for Newcastle from 2015-17 (His first year at Newcastle was a nine-goal, four-assist, two red card campaign under Steve McClaren and then Benitez).

Given Mitrovic’s young age and success rate at Craven Cottage, there’s no reason for Fulham not to spend the reported $28 million.

The Magpies are expected to use a lot of that money to sign big West Bromwich Albion forward Rondon, who has scored 24 goals in three seasons as the focal point of one of the Premier League’s most conservative attacks.

Newcastle’s bet has to be that Benitez believes that feeding pieces around Rondon — Ayoze Perez, Yoshimori Muti, Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey, DeAndre Yedlin and Kenedy — are going to produce more feast-able material for the big man than the Baggies’ recent pieces (Chris Brunt, Matty Phillips, Kieran Gibbs, Jay Rodriguez, Jake Livermore, and James McClean).

Mitrovic played with such fury that cards were never too far away. Rondon is no shrinking violet, but has only taken one red in his career (going head-first into Bournemouth opposition, who was doing the same).

This is a pretty big risk for Benitez, who is one even marginally-big Mitrovic season away from having a $40-plus million striker on his hands. But Newcastle owner Mike Ashley’s stingy nature has forced Benitez to find creative solutions to his squad needs.

Rondon is a short-term fix and the striker market is never going to be low cost, but the Magpies do have plenty of crossers and playmakers should they stay healthy. Might Rondon be the tonic for an attack dreadfully shy of finishers last season? He’s no doubt an upgrade on Joselu and Dwight Gayle, but that’s not saying a ton.

It’s not a big gamble, but admittedly it’s a gamble. Rondon can be a 10-goal man with terrific hold-up play for teammates, but a behaved Mitrovic has 15-20 in his locker. That’s asking a lot though.