Pep Guardiola’s side lost 6-5 on aggregate to Real Madrid in the Champions League in midweek and the domestic title is the one trophy they can win this season, which may spell bad news for the Magpies as the league leaders focus all of their effort, and frustration, on this match.
Meanwhile, the Toon come into the game off the back of a 1-0 defeat to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at St James’ Park last weekend. Naby Keita scored the only goal as Eddie Howe’s side managed to avoid a drubbing against the Reds, which the 44-year-old will be hoping to prevent again today.
With Newcastle playing away from home against the Cityzens, the ex-Cherries head coach may be expecting a tough 90 minutes playing against the ball for the most part. He may therefore pick a team with this in mind, and one player he must finally unleash from the start is centre-forward Chris Wood.
The New Zealand international has not started a Premier League match since 20 April against Crystal Palace, and he must now be brought back into the fold.
Magpies reporter Ciaran Kelly claimed last month that the striker provides the team with a “focal point”, and this is why the 30-year-old needs to start against City. He can offer an outball for the rest of the players to hit in order to relieve pressure as the opposition potentially sustain attack after attack whilst dominating possession.
In Europe’s top five leagues over the past 365 days, Wood ranks in the 97th percentile for aerial battles won per 90 minutes amongst strikers. He has won a whopping 8.7 headers per 90 minutes in the Premier League, which illustrates the value that he will be able to provide to Newcastle at the top of the pitch.
The striker, who Howe claimed has been “fantastic” since coming to St James’ Park, can make himself a target for the likes of Jamaal Lascelles and Dan Burn to hit when they have the opportunity to clear the ball. Wood can then either hold the ball up with his strength or flick the ball on to the likes of Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin, allowing them to use their pace to threaten on the counterattack.
Therefore, the £72k-per-week colossus can play a crucial role in Newcastle getting anything out of this match, and he must be selected in the starting line-up today.