Premier League English

Man City refreshed and ready to pounce

An ominous-looking Manchester City look all poised to strike back in the Premier League title race after losing some momentum earlier as Pep Guardiola gratefully welcomes back key players for Saturday’s trip to St James’ Park.

Having enjoyed their well-deserved celebratory festivities after winning the Club World Cup for the first time in Saudi Arabia, City then proceeded to waltz back into the Premier League to snap up maximum points from two games on their return.

Defending champions City are five points adrift of leaders Liverpool, but with a game in hand even as they are nearing a clean bill of health with talisman Kevin De Bruyne having made his return after a five-month injury layoff in a 5-0 thrashing of Huddersfield in the FA Cup last weekend.

The Belgian – despite being noticeably nowhere near his incomparable best – managed to register an assist for compatriot Jeremy Doku, who had also been sidelined due to injury since early December.

Another massive boost for City is the news that Erling Haaland is also nearing a return from a foot injury that has kept the prolific striker out of action for City’s last eight games.

“Kevin, Haaland, Phil (Foden), these guys win games – that’s why they’re so important for us,” said an obviously relieved Guardiola.

Having been plagued by lapses of inconsistency in the first half of the season – a situation they were similarly caught in last season and yet went on to win a treble comprising the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup – there’s every reason to believe a regalvanized Guardiola side, bolstered by his returning avenging angels, should rebound unsurprisingly with a new vengeance to wreak havoc in the title race.

A win at St James’ Park would serve to quickly validate City’s credentials as the first side to ever win four consecutive top-flight English titles. Newcastle on the other hand have lost five of their last six Premier League games to spiral down to ninth place in the table.

Having been ravaged by injuries in the first half of the season after which fatigue set in to take its toll on the Magpies during a marathon slew of fixtures in December, Eddie Howe now finally has most of his key men back from injuries and secured an invigorating 3-0 derby win over Sunderland in the FA Cup last weekend to stop the rot.