Opinion: Newcastle cannot just turn up and defend against Manchester City
Photo Credit:(Getty Images/Shaun Botterill)

Newcastle United head to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night to take on a Manchester City side looking to bounce back from a shock defeat to Southampton at the weekend.

The Magpies only met their midweek opponents just over a week ago as City cruised into the Emirates FA Cup semi-finals with a 2-0 win at St James' Park.

But Steve Bruce has to change his tactics in this latest encounter if his side are to have any hope of bringing anything back to Tyneside against last season's Premier League champions. 

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What happened last time?

When these two sides met in their cup quarter-final, Bruce's side went for an ultra-defensive system which saw them start with five players at the back.

As much as the Cityzens were dominant in the early stages, Newcastle were doing well to frustrate their opponents. That was until Fabian Schär gave away a soft penalty in the first half and this was when things had to change.

But it took a while for this to be evident and barring Dwight Gayle's horendous miss in the second 45 minutes, the Magpies barely looked like troubling Pep Guardiola's defence.

For a game which had plenty riding on it as cup quarter-finals do, this was poor management from the Toon boss with the only real tactic being to win the ball back and hoof it upfield to Andy Carroll. 

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What needs to change?

Defending is an art and against sides such as Manchester City it is an area where errors are often costly.

In the league meeting at the end of November, Newcastle managed to take a 2-2 draw against Guardiola's men thanks to goals from Jetro Willems and Jonjo Shelvey. This was with a wing-back system but the Magpies played a much more expansive game.

For whatever reason this wasn't the case in the cup tie last weekend but surely Bruce has to take positives from the earlier league clash.

Southampton stunned City with their victory at the weekend and they showed the rest of the division who to defend against such an attacking side. They won with a four-at-the-back formation proving that there is no need to play in such a defensive way.

Newcastle now have nothing to realistically play for with survival in the top flight guaranteed, but Bruce and the club's supporters would like to see their side climb the table in the final weeks of the season so it could be worth the risk in trying to get a result against a side who will surely be looking to react to Sunday's poor showing. 

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What other sides have done

Having lost nine games this season, the proof is there that Manchester City can be beaten even by sides who are deemed considerably weaker.

Southampton put on a masterclass on Sunday night but another side who have caused endless problems to City this season are Wolverhampton Wanderers who actually did the league double over the Guardiola's side.

Wolves' 3-4-3 formation is one that Bruce could adapt at the Etihad with wing-backs being used but in a more attacking way.

In both games between City and Wolves this season pace was the key to beating them and Newcastle themselves do have pace at their disposal.

The popular Allan Saint-Maximin will miss out with injury which is a huge blow for the side after his impressive return following the Premier League's restart.

However Bruce does still have several other pacy players to choose from including the likes of Miguel Almiron, Valentino Lazaro and DeAndre Yedlin who scored at the Etihad in the 2018/19 campaign.

If Newcastle adapt the same tactics as Wolves then there is a chance that they could perhaps surprise their opponents and there is no doubt that their fans would much rather watch their side have a go and lose than just wait to concede by parking the bus for 90 minutes.

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