Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport’s coverage of Manchester City’s trip to St James’ Park to take on Newcastle, one of only four Premier League fixtures this weekend amid the latest rise in Covid-19 infection rates.
Pep Guardiola has been cleared to travel with the Man City squad to Newcastle after an inconclusive Covid test led to the cancellation of his scheduled press conference on Friday.
The City boss took a follow-up PCR test which has since come back negative, allowing him to join his team for the Gulf State derby.
Guardiola, who lost his mother to coronavirus last year, told the club’s official website that all his players barring Ferran Torres were fit, while Joao Cancelo is available after missing the midweek rout of Leeds through suspension.
“Newcastle is a very tough opponent,” Guardiola said. “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.”
Guardiola added: “They have had a tough start to the season but they are a good team with good players and a top manager so we will go there and have to work hard for each other to win the game.”
City head into the weekend’s decimated round of fixtures with a one-point lead at the top of the table.
Newcastle manager Eddie Howe is hopeful his players can cope with the “unique challenge” of back-to-back matches against the Premier League’s top two.
Howe’s side had just 26 per cent possession in Thursday’s 3-1 defeat at Anfield and they can probably expect even less against the defending champions even though they face them at St James’ Park.
The physical exertion contributed to a hamstring injury to left-back Jamal Lewis and Allan Saint-Maximin sustaining a muscle problem and, while the Magpies boss will freshen up the team, he is asking for more of the same effort.
“I think the challenge we face with these two games, the reality is we are going to be without the ball for a long time and the physical effort of the players is really tested,” he said.
“It is a unique challenge for us with these two games back-to-back but the fact we are at home with the crowd behind us will hopefully inspire.
“We are going to obviously need to rotate the team and make sure the team that takes the pitch is as fresh as it can be.”