The Premier League pace setters, Manchester City, against the season’s surprise package (Newcastle United) is one of a number of mouthwatering ties on offer this weekend.
Norwich v Arsenal, Chelsea v Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa are all promising. However it is the clash between the league’s only unbeaten pair at the Etihad Stadium that will attract more attention than your regular 3pm GMT kick off.
Manchester City host Newcastle United on Saturday. Two sides that merit their achievements thus far, but two teams whose realistic ambitions remain streets apart.
City top the table ahead of their Manchester rivals United by five points and six ahead of third place Newcastle. No matter the impressive start of both sides, even the most of optimistic Magpies fan will admit his club won’t be occupying a Champions League place come the end of the season. City, however, are expected to remain at the business end of the league, making them obvious favourites for this weekend’s clash.
After being taken over in 2008 by the Abu Dhabi United Group, it has been a patient rise to stardom for City, but this is the year that many feel they will make their most significant title charge to date. Twenty ten’s fifth place finish was bettered last season with a top three triumph, so who’s to say 2012 won’t be the year City lift the Premier League title?
Newcastle too are a club on the rise but of a whole different perspective. After playing Championship football only two seasons ago it’s a remarkable turnaround to find the Magpies sitting with the country’s elite. This will only be temporary, but it would be deemed catastrophic if Newcastle weren’t to better last season’s 12th place finish; showing how far the club has come since regaining their top flight status.
Despite their differing transfer budgets and wage bills, these two clubs do have their similarities. They both are protecting unbeaten starts to their league campaigns and both opted to sell the naming rights to their ground for commercial gain. More interestingly they also both played at Wembley in May 1999, and it’s this fixture at the home of football that scales the true measure of City’s meteoric rise to the summit of the English game.
On 30 May 1999 City overcame Gillingham in the Division Two play-off final, only a week after their north-west rivals United lifted the FA Cup at the expense of Ruud Gullit’s Newcastle. Eleven years on and City find themselves favourites for the title and playing Champions League football for the first time in their history, with the taste of Football League promotions a distant memory.
Players like Sergio Aguero and David Silva could tell you little about City’s history and heritage. However it is the likes of these players that will determine the future of this club.
Newcastle too are a team very much looking to the future. Manager Alan Pardew has built a side ready to establish itself in the top half of the league, with thoughts of fighting relegation again firmly put to one side.
This weekend’s meeting will be the toughest fixture to date for Newcastle. However if City show any complacency the visitors have proved this season they are ready to take full advantage.
Last season Newcastle were unfortunate to leave Eastlands empty handed, adding to the misery of Hatem Ben Arfa’s horrific leg break early in the game. This season though will be a different encounter. Both sides have fresh personnel and both look a lot stronger outfits than those that fought out that 2-1 City win last October.
With City currently the league’s highest scorers and Newcastle boasting the top flight’s tightest defence; the neutral will hope something has to give between two teams looking to preserve their unbeaten league records.