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Howe facing mammoth task

Even though Newcastle United boss Eddie Howe will have dizzying levels of transfer funds at his disposal this winter (although he won’t be given sole agency in the market, I’m sure), he faces a huge challenge to keep the ailing Magpies in the Premier League. The 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Thursday was Newcastle’s ninth reverse in the league this term, and while they were only three points from safety as a result, the team has picked up bad habits.

While Howe was annoyed about Liverpool’s equaliser at Anfield, a goal scored with Newcastle’s Isaac Hayden nursing a head injury on the floor, the lack of concentration from the rest of the team was indicative of the team’s defensive fragility. They have leaked 37 goals in 17 league outings, including seven across the last two games. They have managed just one clean sheet all season in the top division, and that was in their only win, a 1-0 success against Burnley.

It doesn’t bode well that Newcastle conceded three goals against Chelsea, three against Liverpool, three against Spurs and four against Manchester United. So far, this is not a group of players that’s able to dig in against talented attacking units.

Jamal Lewis won’t be able to line up at full-back after he damaged a hamstring at Anfield, but star striker Callum Wilson could return to the starting XI.

Imperious City have clicked into gear

Manchester City’s preparations for the trip to Tyneside have been overshadowed by the absence of manager Pep Guardiola, who cancelled his press conference after an inconclusive lateral flow test result. However, even without the Catalan coach, City are in confident mood. Since drawing 2-2 at Liverpool in the first week of October, the champions have won nine of their ten Premier League matches, and they go into this weekend with a one-point advantage over Liverpool and a four-point lead over Chelsea. City were odds-on favourites to retain their crown even when they weren’t leading the title race, so it’s no surprise to see them trading at 1.584/7 in the Premier League Winner market.

The midweek 7-0 win over Leeds United showcased City’s attacking brilliance, but we mustn’t overlook their defensive acumen. They have conceded just nine goals in their first 17 PL games, and their Infogol Expected Goals Against figure is broadly in line with that, registering at 10.8. It is by some distance the best xGA figure in the division, and Guardiola’s side also had the best defensive process in the league last season.

Travelling doesn’t seem to bother City. They have won four away games in a row in the top flight, and have scored at least twice in all four of those victories. They haven’t lost on their travels in the Premier League since a 1-0 defeat at Tottenham in August.

Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus were rested in midweek, and could return here, but Bernardo Silva is a doubt with a muscle injury. Ferran Torres, who scored a hat-trick in this fixture last season, is definitely out. At time of writing, there are no players missing due to COVID-19.

City can beat the handicap

We can back the champions -2.0 here on the Asian Handicap at 1.84/5, and I think that’s an attractive proposition. The quality gap here is huge, and City have won by two goals or more in eight of their 17 league matches. Newcastle have lost by multiple goals seven times in the league this term.

Alternatively you could use the Sportsbook to back Manchester City to win and Over 3.5 Goals at 2.3811/8. That has paid out in five of City’s 13 PL wins, and five of Newcastle’s nine defeats.

Jesus to provide?

It’s the right time of year to think about Jesus, and City’s Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus has racked up six PL assists this season, and he’s pushing for a start here. He has three assists in his last seven PL starts, and he has worked effectively as a wide player as well as through the middle. You can use the Anytime Assist market on the Sportsbook to back him at 2.77/4.

Kevin de Bruyne was in sensational form against Leeds, scoring a brace that included a scorching drive, and he is priced at 2.6313/8 to find the net here.





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