Newcastle United will be hoping that their unpredictability works in their favour when they visit Manchester City this weekend. So far it has been a rollercoaster season for the Magpies’ fans as they have dazzled and frustrated in equal measure. They have done well against the likes of Chelsea, Everton and Aston – all established top six sides in the Premier League. But have let themselves down against the likes of Stoke and Blackpool in what could prove to be six-pointers come the end of the season. The match up against mega-bucks Manchester City should allow Newcastle to take up their preferred role of the underdogs once again. There will be a couple of familiar faces in the City squad with James Milner and Shay Given both firm fans’ favourites during their respective spells on Tyneside, although Milner is the only one of the pair likely to make the starting XI. In Newcastle’s goal will be one of Given’s former understudies the young Dutchman Tim Krul who performed well in his first league start of the season against Stoke. He will no doubt be looking to impress his former mentor who will be watching from the bench.
One of Chris Hughton’s biggest selection dilemmas going into the match is over who will play at right back. The occupant for most of the season James Perch has come in for plenty of criticism in the local press and fans’ forums after his match deciding own goal against Stoke. With a poor disciplinary record also going against his name there have been calls for Hughton to bring in another player at right back. The most logical choice would be Ryan Taylor who has impressed in his two League Cup outings this season. Two excellent long range strikers against Accrington and Chelsea have certainly not harmed his cause. Taylor offers a lot more going forward than the former Forrest player but can at times be found wanting defensively. Hughton has looked to back Perch in the press this week in a bid to help restore some of his confidence. He said: “Nobody will feel worse about Sunday than James. These things happen, and the only way to put them behind you is by bouncing back. It is one mistake and everybody makes them in life, not just football. We know he has strength of character and he will now move on to the next game.” Hughton has also had to back his skipper Kevin Nolan after he was also on the receiving end of some criticism for his performances as a second striker.
Defender Steven Taylor still remains short of full fitness as he continues his rehabilitation from a pre-season shoulder injury. The 24 year old is still two weeks shy from making a return to first team action. Although Taylor was transfer listed in August he still remains a part of Hughton’s plans for the rest of the season. While there appears to be little progress over a new contract he could still have a big part to play over the rest of the season. His manager observed: “It will be excellent to have a player like Steven back in the squad again.” In other news Hughton has added another player to his squad with the signing of free agent Yven Moyo. The 18 year old has signed a four year contract after impressing during a trial spell with the club. The midfielder is a France Under-18 international who had been linked with a number of top European clubs. It is unlikely he will be involved in the first team this season but joins a number of promising youngsters waiting in the wings.