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.