Its the first time Newcastle United play at St James' Park without the presence of 140 Sports Direct signs advertising former owner Mike Ashley's business for the best part of 14 years and new manager Eddie Howe feels the move has rubber-stamped the new era on Tyneside with the takeover:
"We are well aware there is a new era at the club, new owners and the club's future is in great hands.
"I think this ties in with that moment."
Newcastle face Man City at St James' Park on Sunday just 64 hours after facing Liverpool at Anfield on Thursday night when a Mike Dean reffing special in the middle of the park handed the three points to Liverpool in controversial circumstances just as Newcastle fans had all predicted the Merseyside ref would prior to the match as I did:
Lets hope Martin Atkinson, referee for the Man City game, has a better match than he did when officiating the two sides in 2010 when he failed to award Newcastle even a free kick for a leg-breaking assault by Nigel De Jong on Hatem Ben Arfa & gave Man City a penalty they shouldn't have had & denied Newcastle a stonewall kick.
With a different referee, Newcastle might have got something at Anfield having started the game well and took a deserved lead when JonJo Shelvey scored a superb goal against his former club from 25 yards to silence Anfield and The Kop:
The Magpies almost added a second before Liverpool scored their equaliser which was the main talking point of the match and one United boss Eddie Howe felt was "unjust" and "had a huge bearing on the game" when Newcastle midfielder Isaac Hayden fell down to the ground clutching his head following a Liverpool corner but instead of stopping the game immediately, Dean looked at Hayden twice & allowed play to continue & a cross to come in from which Diego Jota scored at the second attempt
Former Premier League-winning striker Chris Sutton turned pundit took to Twitter to state that the game should have been stopped and the goal disallowe especially in the current climate of head and brain injury research into footballers and some on social media pointed out it was a good job that referee Anthony Taylor in The European Championships who stopped the Denmark game when Christian Eriksen went down with a heart attack didn't have such a casual attitude to the players in his charge.
Liverpool followed that goal with a quick equaliser as a result of a press that caused a regrettable backpass by JonJo Shelvey that Mo Salah eventually converted:
and, after Dean controversially turned down a decent penalty shout when Trent Alexander-Arnold took out the Scottish winger then the ball in a last-gasp challenge:
Mike Dean completed an all-round individual display by crossing the path and view of Shelvey and Martin Dubravka as TAA lined up to smash a super strike past Dubravka:
Newcastle must regroup & prepare for another big game on Sunday - at the earlier time of 2pm rather than 2.15pm due to TV broadcast requests - this time against the Premier League Champions Man City who are again setting the standard this season at the top of the top flight & thrashed Leeds 7-0 at The Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night:
Manager Pep Guardiola was forced to cancel his pre-match presser after a Covid19 test came back 'inconclusive' although it was since confirmed as negative so he will take charge of the game as per usual. When he finally did speak about the game, there was a crumb in comfort for Newcastle in the team news that last year's hat-trick goalscorer Ferran Torrres in their 4-3 win at St James' Park will miss the game through injury :
although everyone else is fit & available for the trip to Newcastle which Guardiola is treating with respect:
“It is not easy to go to Newcastle and get a result so we will need the whole team and hopefully we will be strong enough to get the points.
“Newcastle is a very tough opponent. People will talk about our place in the table or their place in the table but when you go to Newcastle you know what sort of game to expect.
“Now they have a new manager in Eddie [Howe] and we know what a good manager he is."
Howe, who had a bout of Covid last month, has called for the Premier League to maintain its integrity & continuity after half the weekend's games were called off and there is a Premier League Manager's meeting on Monday to discuss the ongoing situation and the possibility of a Covid break:
Eighteen league places and 31 points separate leaders Man City and Newcastle, who are second bottom of the table and it is only The Magpies' superior goal difference to Norwich that makes it not a top against bottom clash but one Newcastle will be desperately hoping to get a point or three from however hard that may be.
At Anfield, Newcastle lost both Jamal Lewis and Allan Saint-Maximum to injuries and Howe strongly hinted at rotating and refreshing his line-up against The Cityzens:
"I think that the challenge we face in these two games is the reality is we are going to be without the ball for long periods of time.
"Then the physical effort and the exertion of the players is really tested.
"We lost Jamal Lewis early in the game at Liverpool early in the match which was obviously a big blow to us because he is athletically so good.
"And a lot of the other players we had were suffering with fatigue due to the fact we were without the ball for long periods.
"So these two games are a unique challenge for us back to back."
That could open up opportunities for some of Newcastle's squad members who haven't had as much first team football as they'd like since Howe took the St James' Park reins and two who have impressed in home games against Man City in the past namely centre back Emil Krafth, who scored the opener in last season's spirited 3-4 defeat whose pace could be extremely useful against Man City's marauders:
And also for central midfielder Sean Longstaff, who had a barnstorming game alongside Isaac Hayden in the middle when Newcastle ended a 22-match streak without a Premier League win against Man City in January, 2019 winning the game-winning penalty after a tyically lung-busting high press unsettled Fernandinho in the 80th minute:
Longstaff has cut a frustrated figure since Howe's arrival at the club after reduced game time following a good start to the season in which he jointly led The Premier League in most pressures applied per 90 minutes with Jordan Ayew with 52.1 each and this is a skill set that would help in shutting down Man City's array of attacking talents:
yet there is a lot more to the Geordie's game as he showed scoring a rocket at Watford:
Callum Wilson and Joe Willock were rested at Anfield although both came off in the latter stages of the match and are primed to start so Howe's team selection will be an interesting one perhaps with Fabian Schar and JonJo Shelvey dropping to the bench for fresher legs for a rest as Howe can ill afford more injuries with three games in six days against Man Utd, Everton and Southampton following 8 days without a game at Xmas.
Newcastle must do what they can to match Man City's energy and movement especially from a defending perspective so having fresh legs will be vital but in front of a capacity St James' Park crowd, anything is possible especially after a 2-2 draw the last time the match was played in front of fans in November 2019 with an excellent performance from Joelinton leading the line and goals from Jethro Willems & JonJo Shelvey.
Prediction - Newcastle 2 Man City 1