Manchester City-Newcastle United Preview
The last thing Newcastle United need to see in their fight to avoid the drop is a white-hot Sergio Aguero coming to St James' Park, yet the man Manchester City fans call "Kun" looks to terrorise the Magpies once more and continue his scintillating form Tuesday when the teams clash at Tyneside.
Aguero cut a swarth of destruction through Newcastle (7-7-19) in the reverse fixture at the Etihad on Oct. 3, barnstorming to five goals in a 20-minute span around halftime as Manchester City thrashed the Toons 6-1. He scored in all methods and forms - a diving header, his right foot, his left foot, a dink over the keeper, a vicious curler from outside the box and inside a post, a slot home from close range as cool as you like - as he became the fifth player in Premier League history to net five in a game.
He probably could have been the first to bag six had Manuel Pellegrini not mercifully removed him to a hero's reception - even the traveling Geordies participated in the standing ovation - on 66 minutes. Aguero's performance came after he had converted a late penalty to give City a 2-1 victory at Borussia Monchengladbach in a Champions League group match, a win that is now part of a history-making run to their first semifinal appearance in Europe's most prestigious club tournament.
While the Argentina international did not score in City's 1-0 second-leg victory over Paris-St. Germain in Tuesday's quarterfinal - he even missed from the spot before Kevin De Bruyne notched the winner in the 76th minute - Aguero enters this contest looking to build on a hat trick that powered the Citizens (18-6-9) to a 3-0 victory at Chelsea on Saturday.
"I'm very satisfied," Pellegrini told City's official website with the win coming after sacrificing his team's FA Cup hopes at Stamford Bridge with a 5-1 loss using a youthful side. "It was a complete game and a very important three points in the Premier League because we want to finish as near to the top of the table as we can."
De Bruyne, a one-time Chelsea product banished to Germany by former Blues boss Jose Mourinho before signing with City, wreaked his vengeance by turning Aguero loose for goals on either side of halftime. When Aguero salted away the victory via penalty kick on 80 minutes, Manchester City moved ahead of Arsenal in third on goal difference after the Gunners were held to a 1-1 draw by Crystal Palace on Sunday.
"I'm happy with the three goals but more important was the victory," Aguero told CityTV. "I will continue to do my best to score goals, but right now the objective is to finish in the top four and then in the Champions League to try and do our best."
Aguero has 21 goals, three behind Tottenham's Harry Kane for the league lead and one back of Leicester City's Jamie Vardy for second. The Argentine, though, has done his work in just 26 matches compared to 34 for Vardy and 34 for Kane.
He also has 10 goals in nine lifetime matches versus Newcastle.
Newcastle matched the early kickoff win Saturday by neighbours Sunderland over Norwich City with an identical 3-0 scoreline over Swansea City. The victory kept the Magpies two points behind the Black Cats and pulled them within three of the Canaries, who are narrowly above the drop.
Jamaal Lascelles, Moussa Sissoko and Andros Townsend all scored to give manager Rafa Benitez his first victory in five matches since taking over for Steve McClaren and ensured the Spaniard would have a reason to celebrate his 56th birthday later Saturday.
"It was massively important," Townsend told Newcastle's official website. "We got five games left, and we've got to win our home games if we want to stay in the Premier League.
"Hopefully, we can be the team that takes the last five games by the scruff of the neck and does enough to survive."
After making five changes to his starting XI from Newcastle's 3-1 loss to Southampton on April 9, it will be interesting to see if Benitez turns over any of this lineup given its success. The biggest help was the return of left back Paul Dummett from injury - the Magpies were simply rotating bodies at that position, contributing to a leaky defence that shipped 17 goals during a seven-match winless spell before blanking the Swans.
Newcastle's 2-0 League Cup victory at the Etihad on Oct. 29, 2014, is their lone win in the last 18 meetings (1-2-15) between the teams in all competitions. City have won five on the bounce at St James' Park by a 12-2 aggregate and are unbeaten in their last eight there (7-1-0).
Manchester City have not lost in 18 league matches (16-2-0) between the teams since a 1-0 defeat Sept. 24, 2005, outscoring Newcastle 49-9 in those contests.