Ahead of Newcastle’s visit to the Etihad Mark Lawrenson has been assessing the chances of Rafa Benitez and his team.
Much has been said about the ultra-defensive tactics used in the first-half in the Man City game at St James Park.
However, they all conveniently ignore the fact that whilst Rafa Benitez was always going to put out a defensive line-up, he was also protecting his better players as Newcastle faced vital relegation clashes against Brighton and Stoke, three and five days respectively after the Man City game.
So whilst the tactics would have been negative regardless, it was also a lack of ability that meant Newcastle barely kept the ball for more than one or two touches, when they occasionally got possession – especially in the opening half hour.
This time, there is eight days before Newcastle face Chelsea in the FA Cup, so I think we will see Rafa going for a full strength team and not quite so ultra-defensive tactics.
Still a massive challenge and Newcastle will have to defend most of the match, though little different to almost every other team that plays Man City.
Even though Liverpool only had 36% possession against Manchester City, I didn’t hear anybody mention that…
Liverpool of course were excellent on the ball even with only around a third of the possession, which was the key factor.
Mark Lawrenson says that he can’t see Rafa Benitez following that Liverpool ‘template’ of beating Manchester City, he doubts whether Rafa has even watched a DVD rerun of the game.
As a tongue in cheek article on The Mag pointed out last Sunday, ‘there are now no excuses for Rafa now’ with Liverpool having shown how to beat Man City.
The punchline of course was that Liverpool’s attacking five players, four of them who scored against Man City, all cost £25m or more. Wijnaldum the cheapest and in total the five costing over £170m.
The tongue in cheek article going on to say that ‘all’ Rafa needed to do before this Manchester City match, was to break Newcastle United’s 13 year old £16m transfer record five times, then he could take the game to Guardiola’s side.
Instead we reach today, which Rafa said in December was the day he had to have all of his January signings completed by, with of course not even a cheap and cheerful loan signing in sight yet…
Mark Lawrenson says that he can’t see Rafa’s tactics working this time, I have this strange feeling Newcastle might get something.
Mark Lawrenson talking to BBC Sport:
“If Liverpool showed other teams the way to beat Manchester City last weekend with their high-energy and attack-minded tactics, I cannot see Rafa Benitez following that template.
“I don’t think he will be studying the DVD of that match too much. He probably didn’t even watch it.
“Newcastle are far more likely to attempt the kind of defensive shut-out they tried when City beat them 1-0 at St James’ Park at the turn of the year.
“I don’t see it working this time.
“City will put last week’s defeat down to the fact that Liverpool absolutely swarmed all over them but I doubt their manager Pep Guardiola is going to beat himself up about it too much, and this game is perfect for them to bounce back.
“I don’t think missing out on Alexis Sanchez is too big a blow for City either.
“I quite like the way they dealt with the situation too. For a team that has spent hundreds of millions of pounds recently, it was quite refreshing.
“Of course they could afford him for fun but the goalposts got moved so they said “he would have been a nice addition but this one doesn’t work for us. If you can get what you want elsewhere, then good luck”.
“Prediction is Manchester City 3 Newcastle United 0.”
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