Premier League champions Manchester City travel to St James' Park to face a struggling Newcastle United and Roberto Mancini will be hopeful of three easy points, as he looks to claw back a six point deficit to leaders Manchester United. The Magpies start the weekend's round of games in 14th, with 17 points from 16 games. City's derby defeat to United last weekend means they remain on 33 points.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is set for 12.45 pm GMT. Live coverage is on Sky Sports 2, Sky Sports 2 HD and Sky 3D. Live radio commentary is available on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Manchester and BBC Newcastle. Catch all the highlights on Match of the Day at 10.25 pm GMT on BBC One and BBC One HD.
Newcastle slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Craven Cottage last week, to continue what is a miserable end to the year for Alan Pardew. The club has won only once in November and December so far, a period of 10 games, and lost critical Premier League fixtures to Southampton, Stoke City and, of course, Fulham.
Life in Europe has been marginally better, with the Magpies qualifying for the knock-out stages of the UEFA Europa League, despite a 2-0 defeat to Ligue 1 club Bordeaux in the last round of group games. However, the fact they managed only two wins from the six group games highlights a key problem Pardew must address in January - a lack of goals.
The Senegalese strike pair of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse have not been as effective as they were last term and the club has a general lack of quality and depth through most, if not all, positions on the pitch.
City, meanwhile, are in no less a tight spot themselves. The reigning English champions were beaten at the Etihad last weekend, courtesy a dramatic injury time free kick from United striker Robin van Persie. And that defeat, coupled with the elimination from all European competition in the first week of the month, means the pressure is well and truly on Mancini to turn the season around.
Like Newcastle, City have found wins hard to come by, with only one win in the last six fixtures across all competitions. And, like Newcastle, City have found goals hard to come by. This does sound a trifle silly, considering Mancini has the likes of Sergio Agüero, Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko and David Silva to call on... but the fact the club has only managed six goals in the last six games does suggest all is not quite perfect up front.
However, unlike Newcastle, City certainly do have the squad depth and strength to deal with the situation, so expect City to edge what will be a physical contest.
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): L L W L L
- Last Match: Fulham 2 - 1 Newcastle United
- Last Five (all competitions, most recent first): L L D W D
- Last Match: Manchester City 2 - 3 Manchester United
Alan Pardew could have to do without key midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring), after the Frenchman tweaked the muscle in the game against Fulham. He will face a late fitness test but is not expected to make the start. Ben Arfa's compatriot, Yohan Cabaye (groin), and Steven Taylor (hamstring) are both still unavailable, as are Dan Gosling (knee), Ryan Taylor and Haris Vuckic (ACL). Meanwhile, another Frenchman, former United youngster Gabriel Obertan, also faces a late fitness test, as the 23 year old nears recovery from a toe injury.
Probable Line-Up: Krul; Simpson, Coloccini, Wiliamson, Santon; Anita, Tiote; Cisse, Marveaux, Gutierrez; Ba
Mancini is likely to be without captain and central defender Vincent Kompany (groin), after the Belgian international was substituted during the Manchester derby. This opens the door for former Everton man Joleon Lescott to get a possible look-in at the first team; the 30 year old England international has been relegated to a bench role following the partnership between Kompany and summer signing Matija Nastasic.
England midfielder James Milner (hamstring) may recover but compatriot Gareth Barry will almost certainly be unavailable - he serves a one-match ban for disciplinary reasons. The champions' options are further reduced by the injury to right back Micah Richards (ankle).
On a final note, Mancini will sweat over the fitness of Ivory Coast international Yaya Toure, after the former Barcelona star banged his knee in the derby game. He does face a few tests but is expected to make the start of this game.
Probable Line-Up: Hart; Zabaleta, Nastasic, Lescott; Clichy; Toure, Garcia; Tevez, Silva, Nasri; Agüero