City face a tricky opponent in Newcastle

Haaland is seeking a 28th league goal of the season. — Reuters

FRESH from qualifying for the FA Cup quarter-finals in midweek, Premier League champions Manchester City are set to face Newcastle United in a clash that could have a huge bearing on where these two clubs finish this season.

The Magpies, who reached last weekend’s Carabao Cup final, which they lost to Manchester United, are fifth in the standings.

But they are 14 points behind the second-place Citizens, who have played two games more.

Pep Guardiola, City’s accomplished Spanish manager, who is chasing his fifth league title in his time in northwest England, said during the week that they could not afford to drop any more points, lest Arsenal run away with the title.

The Gunners crushed Everton on Wednesday to open up a five-point cushion over City – both have played 25 games.

Man United, too, are in the frame, just six points off City in third place and with a game in hand.

All this brings to bear extra pressure on not one, but both sides in the early kickoff today.

Newcastle were nicely poised in the third spot for a while, but they went off the boil after qualifying for the Carabao Cup final.

They drew three in a row before suffering a defeat to Liverpool in their last league outing.

That is certainly not top-four form, Eddie Howe’s target, which comes with Champions League football next season.

The Magpies have certainly shown that they can mix it up with the best, and if Howe can get his side motivated enough, they could well upset City today.

The Citizens themselves have not been as consistent and ruthless as they have been in the past.

Yet Guardiola said in the buildup to this game that he was happy with how they were playing.

He said they were just unlucky to not get the bounce of the ball in a couple of results that didn’t go their way.

Guardiola clearly has to be pleased with Erling Haaland.

The 22-year-old Norwegian has 27 league goals to his credit to date and looks set to add to that tally.

Newcastle might do well to pay special attention to this lad.

Anything less than that could well end up hurting the Magpies, big time.

The other two featured matches this weekend see struggling Chelsea welcome Leeds United, while Wolves are home to a resurgent Tottenham side.

All four of these clubs could win convincingly, and with so much at stake, there might well be a hatful of goals to go with what should be some entertaining football this weekend.

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