Newcastle United vs Manchester City - Five Key Battles

Newcastle United

Last season City's win at St James followed an impressive derby victory over Manchester United at the Etihad that put the title in their hands. This season they head to Newcastle after a devastating derby defeat, how will they react against Pardew's out of form side?

Here is a rundown of the key battles...

Demba Ba vs Joleon Lescott

The Senegalese striker's form has been one of the few bright spots for Newcastle this season, with Ba scoring ten league goals already, and he will be the home side's main threat again on Saturday. Kompany limped out of the Manchester derby after only 20 minutes last weekend, and Kolo Toure's poor display should mean that Lescott is the man to start alongside Nastasic. The England defender will face a tough task against Ba, and if the striker can get the better of him regularly, you'd expect Newcastle to find the net at some stage.

Hatem Ben Arfa vs Pablo Zabaleta/Gael Clichy

Ben Arfa announced his return from injury with a fine goal at Fulham on Monday night, and if fit he will be vital to his side's attacking play this weekend. The French winger was risked in the loss at Fulham, and is a doubt for the weekend's match as his hamstring is still causing him problems. If he doesn make the match, where Pardew play's him will be interesting, with Ben Arfa often used as a right midfielder in a 4-4-2 this season, but played on the left of a front three on Monday. Wherever he starts, ensuring Ben Arfa is given the freedom to be effective in the final third is vital to Newcastle, and it’s just as important for City that they deny him that freedom. Whichever full back is up against Ben Arfa will have to be on the top of their game as such is his talent; one lapse in concentration could see Newcastle on the score sheet.

Vernun Anita vs Yaya Toure

Anita has become increasingly important to Newcastle in the absence of Yohan Cabaye, with the Dutch player looking the most creative of Newcastle's midfield three. Toure's form has been poor of late, but he showed his class with a brace in this fixture last season, and is still capable of dominating a match for his side. Carrick and Cleverley were effective against Toure last weekend by sitting deep to counter his forward runs, and playing direct passes past the Ivorian to help their side break. Anita will be needed as the outlet to get possession for the likes of Ben Arfa ahead of him, and will also play an important role in defending against City's talented attacking midfield.

Cheick Tiote vs David Silva

Tiote has been a shadow of his former self in recent matches, and his side will really need him to up his game on Saturday. Silva's talents are well known, and even if not at his best he has the ability to split the defence wide open with a couple of deft touches. Tiote is the man Newcastle will rely on most to screen their defence from City's attacks, and he has to ensure he doesn't get over eager in the tackle and give away free kicks in dangerous areas.

Fabricio Coloccini vs Carlos Tevez

Tevez has been starved of Premier League starts of late, but his performance off the bench on Sunday should earn him a recall to the City first team, despite being slightly lucky to stay on the pitch. His compatriot Coloccini has had a stop start season with injuries and a suspension, but should now be settled in the side once again. His influence on the defence cannot be overstated, and he will be at the centre of their efforts to hold off Tevez and company on Saturday.

image: © machernucha

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