Newcastle begin their tricky final five Premier League fixtures with a trip to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City this evening.
Magpies supporters can be proud of their recent record against the behemoth, having drawn a thrilling encounter 2-2 earlier in the campaign, which included delightful strikes from both Jonjo Shelvey and Kevin De Bruyne.
However, ten days ago, when the two sides met in the FA Cup quarter-final, it was a different story. What was meant to be a joyous occasion for the St James’ Park faithful – having miraculously reached the final eight of the prestigious trophy for the first time in 14 years – ended as a damp squib with a convincing 2-0 win for the Sky Blues.
Emil Krafth did not feature on that occasion, but the defender had reassuring words for fans ahead of the Magpies’ trip to face Pep Guardiola’s side this time around.
What did he say?
Speaking to the NUFC TV the Swedish right-back said: “When you play against such a good team that’s going to have the ball a lot, when we get the ball we need to try and keep it as much as possible. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long night.”
Krafth added: “We just have to be tight and narrow, and when we get the ball, we have to keep it.”
Using Southampton as inspiration
Ralph Hasenhuttl provided the blueprint for mid-table sides aiming to overcome Manchester City when his Saints beat the Sky Blues 1-0 on Sunday. They may have only had 26 percent possession against Guardiola’s men, but whenever they lost the ball, the hosts harried the second-placed side into submission, consistently limiting their passing options.
Krafth’s suggestions follow a similar pattern to the game plan Southampton implemented to perfection at the weekend, which proved to be significantly more effective than when Newcastle dropped deep, reverting to a back five, which also allowed City freedom in the FA Cup.
Remaining compact between the lines of midfield and defence was an essential aspect of the Saints’ tactics and something Bruce should look to replicate.
Furthermore, it is imperative Bruce gets his side to retain possession with greater effect and hurt the opposition with their limited opportunities on the ball. If the Magpies ignore Krafth’s suggestions and fail to follow Southampton’s lead, then they risk a repeat of their humiliating cup exit.