After Manchester United and Chelsea began their Premier League campaigns with comfortable victories, the third of the expected title challengers, Manchester City, will be looking to lay down a marker of their own when Newcastle United visit the Etihad on Monday. There is plenty of intrigue too as a new era gets underway following the replacing of Roberto Mancini with Manuel Pellegrini in the dugout and over £90 million spent on enhancing the squad. Despite the overhaul since City ended their disappointing last campaign, Pellegrini stressed that there is little time for a settling in period.
“Of course the new players -- and the manager and staff -- all need to time to get to know each other and I am sure that we will improve as the season progresses but we do not have that time; we have to hit the ground running and that starts against Newcastle,” he said.
While City’s transfer activity 12 months ago did little to improve their squad, Pellegrini believes the arrivals of Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic -- all of whom are in line to make debuts on Monday -- provide the strength to compete all on fronts.
“The aim has been to build a group that has two top class players for each position; we are fighting for trophies on four fronts so we will need everyone at some stage,” he explained. “The Premier League can be won by one point and that point can depend on having a squad with strength and depth. Part of my job is to manage the fitness and freshness of the players to give us the best possible chance of winning all those trophies for which we compete.”
It has been a very different story this summer for City’s first opponents. Following a disappointing campaign, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley decided that the solution was to bring in former club manager Joe Kinnear -- a man who has been out of the game for four years -- as director of football. Widespread derision quickly followed at Kinnear’s lack of knowledge of players’ names and his exaggeration of his achievements in the game.
Most costly, though, has been Kinnear’s inability to greatly add to the squad. Indeed, Loic Remy is the only arrival to date, and that on a season-long loan deal from Queens Park Rangers. What’s more, the French forward is likely to be up for close to a month though injury. Left-back Davide Santon is a major doubt for the season opener with a hip injury, while his understudy Massadio Haidara is definitely ruled out. City will be without Matija Nastasic and Scott Sinclair through injury, while Sergio Aguero is unlikely to start having not featured in preseason due to injury.
Manchester City (probable)
D: Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy
M: Fernandino, Toure
Navas, Jovetic, Silva
Newcastle United (probable)
D: Debuchy, Taylor, Coloccini, Yanga-Mbiwa
M: Sissoko, Tiote, Cabaye
F: Ben Arfa, Cisse, Gouffran
Prediction: The loss of Nastasic is a blow for City, who would perhaps be wise to enter the transfer market again for a central defender rather than relying on Joelon Lescott. Going forward, though, City look set to be far more of a threat than last season. Pellegrini has spoken highly of Edin Dzeko in preseason and the Bosnian has looked sharp, meaning that he is likely to get the nod up front in the opener. With Jesus Navas’s pace offering a new dimension down the right and likely going up against Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa playing out of position, Newcastle could be in for a long evening.
Manchester City 3-1 Newcastle United
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League encounter will kick-off from the Etihad at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.