51 min: De Bruyne glides down the right and nearly finds Jesus in the middle. Just a corner. From the set piece, Mendy crashes a shot goalwards. It pinballs around, and slaps a Newcastle player on the arm. City claim for a penalty but they’re never getting one for that.
50 min: Saint-Maximin raises the volume again, skipping down the left in a very elegant fashion. He crosses to nobody in particular. Mercurial doesn’t begin to cover it.
49 min: Walker slides a pass down the right channel for Jesus, who threatens to spin Dummett on the edge of the box. But before he can execute the skill, the flag goes up. He’d come back from an offside position.
47 min: Newcastle appear to be similarly minded, though. Almiron busies himself down the right, flicking the ball from a tight spot to Joelinton with no little skill. The move peters out and that’ll be a goal kick, but the hosts have now made a statement of intent too.
City – kept waiting on the pitch awhile by the hosts – finally get the second half underway. Neither side have made a half-time change. While City were left hanging around, Pep took the opportunity to remind David Silva to raise the tempo. City were uncharacteristically ponderous in the first half. And Mendy’s on the charge immediately, racing down the left and whipping in a cross. No success this time, but there’s a statement of intent.
Half-time entertainment … courtesy of Sunderland’s favourite son. You’re welcome.
HALF TIME: Newcastle United 1-1 Manchester City
De Bruyne shoots from the edge of the box. The ball’s blocked, and loops into the air. Dubravka plucks it from the sky, and that’s your lot for the first half. The hosts troop off, pleased with their work. City look a little pensive. No doubt they’ll come out flying in 15 minutes.
45 min: Hayden crosses from a deep position on the right. Stones’ clearing header is dreadful, falling straight to Almiron, just inside the box on the left. Almiron, yet to score for his new club, drops a shoulder, shifts the ball to the right … but instead of shooting, loses control haplessly. Confidence in short supply.
43 min: Shelvey wins a 50-50 ball in the centre circle and feeds Joelinton, who hooks wide left for Almiron. A lot of grass ahead of him. Almiron looks up, sees there’s nobody in the box for him to find, and sends the ball in there anyway. A waste of a decent position. Very poor.
42 min: Mahrez makes himself a bit of space on the right, but his chipped cross has way too much weight, and sails over the heads of everyone in the box. In the dugout, Pep looks pained as he gulps enigmatically on a bottle of water.
40 min: It’s attack versus defence again. Sterling sails down the left, cuts infield and crosses. Clark clears with a textbook diving header. Keith Houchen would be proud. But Joelinton, the only Newcastle player upfield, can’t hold the ball up to bring a team-mate into play. The ball’s coming straight back at the hosts, again and again.
38 min: Gundogan attempts to release Jesus down the inside-right channel with an incisive diagonal pass. But the ball’s too heavy, and sails out for a goal kick. Gundogan claims for a deflection and a corner, but the flag’s gone up for offside anyway. A little bit of City frustration leaking out.
36 min: Saint-Maximin zips down the right wing. A few tricks in the hope of getting past Mendy and Fernandinho. They don’t quite come off, but the Toon Army were off their seats there. He’s a born entertainer.
35 min: City are pressing Newcastle back again. Sterling, Mendy, Jesus and Silva are causing all manner of bother down the left channel. Newcastle hold their shape, just about, but some last-ditch clearances are being made as City ping it around in the assured style.
33 min: Mendy races down the left and gives the ball to Sterling, who shimmies along the edge of the box, left to right, before launching a shot goalwards. Dubravka parries and, after a fan-worrying fashion, smothers.
31 min: Silva has a shot from the edge of the box. Blocked. Newcastle stream up the other end, Saint-Maximin leading the charge. He feeds Almiron, who can’t pick a pass. The move breaks down. City are still on top, and look the more likely to score next. But Newcastle are playing with verve and confidence on the occasions they go forward, too.
29 min: City attempt to reassert their authority, Jesus scuttling down the right and fizzing a low cross into the mixer. There’s nobody in blue waiting to prod home, though, and Clark is able to clear.
27 min: Shelvey swings a cross in from the right. Hayden challenges for the ball, forcing Stones to slash it out hysterically for a corner. Nothing comes from the set piece, but Newcastle have their tails up now.
GOAL! Newcastle United 1-1 Manchester City (Willems 25)
This is a lovely goal. Willems rolls a pass down the inside-left channel for Almiron, who flicks it back to the left-back. Willems takes a touch inside, and threads a lovely curling shot into the bottom right! Ederson, at full stretch, had no chance. And that’s Almiron’s first assist in a Toon shirt!
24 min: Saint-Maximin bursts past a couple of City shirts and is cynically clipped by Gundogan. The midfielder is booked, his fifth yellow card of the season, and he’ll be suspended for the visit to Burnley.
GOAL! Newcastle United 0-1 Manchester City (Sterling 22)
The pressure on Newcastle finally tells. A bit of pinball in the box, instigated by Sterling and Silva bustling down the inside left. Silva falls, but manages to guide the ball to Sterling with a cute flick of his heel, some class amid the melee. Sterling is suddenly free in a pocket of space on the penalty spot, and slams an unstoppable effort into the bottom right.
20 min: Newcastle load the box. Shelvey tries to catch Ederson off guard, whipping a low curler towards the bottom left. It’s always heading wide, and the keeper would have had it covered anyway.
19 min: Dummett hoicks a pass down the left for Saint-Maximin. Ederson comes haring out of his box and heads out for a throw. He only just made it before the Newcastle man. Perfectly timed, but there would have been a few City hearts in mouths there. From the throw, De Bruyne clips Saint-Maximin, and this will be a free kick in a dangerous position, just to the left of the box. Shelvey’s eyes light up.
18 min: De Bruyne slips a ball down the inside-right channel and into the box. Jesus reaches it, to the right of the goal, and backflicks in the hope of teeing up Mahrez. Not quite, but it’s a corner. And that corner leads to another, which leads to Fernandinho heading over the bar. A good chance that, and not too far away.
16 min: Almiron strides out of defence with purpose, channelling his inner Beckenbauer as he sways up the middle, ignoring challenges, into a pocket of space. City are light at the back, but get away with it as Almiron asks too much of Joelinton with a pass down the right. Fernandinho refuses to be beaten for pace.
14 min: City ping it about metronomically, almost lulling Newcastle into a false sense of security as they make no attempt to go anywhere. But suddenly they turn it up a bit, De Bruyne striding down the right and whipping a low ball along the corridor of uncertainty. Dummett is forced to hack behind for a corner. Stones heads the set piece weakly wide right.
12 min: Newcastle have only enjoyed 18 percent possession so far. It could be a long day … although they haven’t been tested seriously at the back yet, and they’ve had a couple of sorties upfield. Steve Bruce will be happy enough with this start.
10 min: Saint-Maximin sashays down the left at great speed, gliding infield and teeing up Almiron, 25 yards out. Almiron considers a shot, but instead switches to Manquillo on the right wing. Bad choice, as it turns out, because Manquillo blams a lumpen cross through the box and away from danger.
8 min: Joelinton nicks the ball off a dawdling Fernandinho, out on the right. He looks to scoop a pass across to Saint-Maximin, but Mendy gets in the road. Just as well, because Newcastle would have been off there. This is much better from the hosts.
7 min: The volume in St James’ Park suddenly cranks up to 11, as Saint-Maximin is sent scampering into some space down the left. He’s exciting to watch. He drifts infield and takes Newcastle’s first shot in anger. Actually it’s not so much angry as a bit miffed; he sends a pea-roller towards the bottom left, and it’s easily gathered by Ederson.
6 min: Silva and Jesus nearly open up Newcastle down the inside-left channel, but Clark intervenes to hook clear.
5 min: Gundogan takes a speculative whack from 25 yards. It bobbles through to Dubravka. City aren’t exactly rampant … yet … but they are well on top.
4 min: Newcastle have hardly touched the ball. Mahrez drops a shoulder and nearly skates past Willems, but the defender stands firm. Saint-Maximin tries to dribble away from Newcastle’s final third but is abruptly stripped of possession. It’s tough for the hosts right now.
2 min: De Bruyne sprays an outside-of-the-boot pass towards Mendy on the left touchline. Glorious … or nearly glorious. Mendy can’t quite keep it in play. Had he done so, he’d have been haring off into acres of space.
And we’re off! Newcastle get the ball rolling on a cold day in the north. The ball’s launched long. Saint-Maximin can’t get on the end of it, and City are in possession almost immediately. A long ball for Mahrez, but he’s offside. The clock ticks past 24 seconds without a goal being scored this time.
Howay the lads / here come the teams. Newcastle are in their famous black and white stripes, while City sport their equally storied sky blue. Everyone very pretty. A quick blast of the theme to the greatest movie ever made (hey, it’s St Andrew’s Day after all) and we’ll be off in a minute.
A relaxed and cheery Pep Guardiola speaks to BT Sport. “Everyone remembers last season!” he laughs. “You have to remember the days we won! The year before we won 1-0, last year we lost, so… it’s a mythic English stadium with history. We know it.” As for the continued absence of Sergio Aguero, will Gabriel Jesus step up to the plate? “Sure. He will be judged for the goals, but we know him, it’s three seasons we’ve had together, we don’t have any doubt about him.”
Pre-match pint, anyone? We can nip across the road to The Strawberry. There’s time.
Steve Bruce speaks, ahead of his very first encounter with a Pep Guardiola team. “It’s quite remarkable what Manchester City have done,” he tells BT Sport. “At the head of it, Pep is someone we all strive to be. We played very well at West Ham and against Bournemouth at home, and we were a touch disappointed with how we played against Aston Villa. But we’re at home, and our home form, very quietly, has stacked up. So let’s hope we can play well on the day. We’re going to have to. And defend well, against one of the great teams. A lot’s been said about our investing a lot of money in our top three. But they are young, and coming to terms with playing in England. I’m sure they’ll turn it round. But for me it’s all about the team, so whoever scores, great if a defender scores. But there are times you want your strikers to take an opportunity, so let’s hope today is one of those days.”
Newcastle make just the one change to the XI named for the 2-0 loss at Aston Villa last Monday. DeAndre Yedlin succumbs to a hip injury and is replaced by Javier Manquillo.
Manchester City swap five players out of the team that drew 1-1 with Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday evening. Angelino, Nicolas Otamendi, Joao Cancelo, Rodri and Bernardo Silva drop to the bench, to be replaced by Kyle Walker, John Stones, Benjamin Mendy, David Silva and Riyad Mahrez.
Newcastle United: Dubravka, Manquillo, Fernandez, Clark, Dummett, Willems, Almiron, Shelvey, Hayden, Saint-Maximin, Joelinton.
Subs: Schar, Gayle, Krafth, Darlow, Atsu, Sean Longstaff, Matthew Longstaff.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Mendy, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Silva, Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Sterling.
Subs: Bravo, Jose Angelino, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Otamendi, Foden.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire).
Welcome to the rerun of the 1955 FA Cup and 1976 League Cup finals. That’s what this is all about, kids, yes?
There is the small matter of the corresponding fixture last season, of course. Newcastle conceded a goal after just 24 seconds, yet bounced back in the second half to register a surprise 2-1 victory that nearly cost City the title. Nearly. Nearly … but not quite.
Just like last time, City are strong favourites to take away all three points from St James’ Park. You’d expect the reigning treble champions to swat aside a team for whom mid-table safety is the long and short of it. But you never know in football. Newcastle’s form has been decent enough since being spanked 5-0 at Leicester: wins over Manchester United, West Ham and Bournemouth, plus a close defeat at Chelsea. City aren’t quite their imperious best at the minute, either, having only won one of their last four in all competitions. Most strange.
So can City close the gap on the leaders Liverpool? Or will Newcastle shock them again? We’ll see what develops soon enough. Just give it a bit longer than 24 seconds. It’s on!
Kick off: 12.30pm GMT.