The Magpies lost 1-0 to Liverpool last time out and now come up against the reigning champions away from home. A win for the Toon will hand the Reds a major boost in their pursuit of the title and improve their own chances of finishing in the top half.
Eddie Howe’s men had won four consecutive games prior to their clash with Jurgen Klopp’s side and will be hoping to resurrect that form for this meeting with Pep Guardiola.
One player that the 44-year-old must brutally axe from the starting XI is Joe Willock after his disappointing display last week.
Freddie Ljungberg previously dubbed the midfielder as “passive”, and that is exactly what he was against Liverpool. As per SofaScore, the 22-year-old lost four of his seven duels and only completed seven passes in his 67 minutes on the pitch. He also had just 19 touches and failed in 100% of his attempted dribbles.
In the Premier League this season, he has lost 60% of his aerial battles and 52% of his individual duels. This shows that he has been a lightweight throughout the campaign as he has failed to outmuscle the opposition on a regular basis.
His lack of strength in the middle of the park means that he can be a passenger in games, as he is unable to hold his own weight against teams who use their physique to their advantage. This is why the £80k-per-week dud must be dropped for today’s match, as he would likely be dominated by the Manchester City players.
Rodri has won 69% of his aerial battles and 56% of his duels overall in the top flight. This suggests that the Spaniard will be able to dominate Willock if it comes down to a physical confrontation between the two in the middle of the pitch.
The ex-Arsenal man has also not done enough in possession to make up for his weak play off the ball. He has scored two goals and failed to provide a single assist this season, which means that he has not made enough of an impact in the final third to warrant a start for this particular match-up when his lack of strength could be his downfall.