Not many teams can be feeling better than Manchester City as they tuck into whatever footballers have for their Christmas meal. One such team might just be Newcastle United - the two will go up against each other on Wednesday evening.
The Magpies had one point in nine league matches when they went to the London Stadium to face an in-form West Ham. Rafael Benitez’s side collected an improbable three points with a blend of fortune and improvement.
The attack was unleashed, and their direct game found holes in the Hammers’ back line. The victory pulled the northeast club away from the peril of the bottom three, though they could be back there by the time they kick-off on December 27th.
Such joy on the 23rd will have been wiped out when the Magpies took a peek at their fixture list, mind.
Manchester City arrive at St James’ Park on a record-breaking 17-match winning streak. Pep Guardiola’s side have dropped just two points all season, and are playing football better than we have ever seen in this country. Even when the Spaniard has rotated, City look otherworldly. It’s like they are playing a different game, and no team has yet found a formula to frustrate the champions elect.
Perhaps most remarkable of all has been City’s defence. It is not fortune that they have concede just 12 this season. It begins with a high press, and ends with the superb Ederson sweeping and leaping to smother any danger.
Their expected goals against are a smidgen under 12, which is four goals superior to the next best team. Even with the Magpies’ offensive success against West Ham, the 23/25 price on Newcastle to fail to score is a good one.
It’s at this point that I would usually turn to the goal scoring markets. The trouble with City is, they could come from almost anywhere. Guardiola’s rotation makes it even more perilous, especially during this frankly insane schedule. The one that might be worth a shot is Leroy Sane to score anytime at 13/10, but that’s still quite a risk given their options.
As with my piece on Liverpool vs Swansea, it would be great to see some festive cheer for the underdogs. Newcastle, though, like Swansea, stand almost no chance in my mind. It would take a red card and a freaky catalogue of events for the visitors to leave with anything other than three points.
Other records could yet tumble on this extraordinary streak. Away from those, City to score over 2.5 goals at 5/6 is what should be getting all your attention. Despite victory at the London Stadium, Benitez’s side were vulnerable at the back. Any vulnerability will be brutally exposed by David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne.
Newcastle’s relegation will not be decided in matches like this, and the title is as good as in Guardiola’s hands. Weirdly, there’s not too much riding on their clash at St James’. Still, I’m sure you’ll all be tuning in just for the show that is Manchester City.
TIP: Manchester City to win 3-0 @ 13/2
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*