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THANK goodness Newcastle United [...]; ANALYSIS.

THANK goodness Newcastle United only have to face Manchester City and Sergio Aguero twice a season.

Thank goodness those two occasions have now been and gone and for a relatively modest and respectable 4-1 aggregate scoreline, too.

The bad news? Even though Pep Guardiola's champions-elect appear to be far superior to any other side in this division, Rafa Benitez's Magpies appear to be inferior to every team in the top half of the table.

In 11 matches against teams who currently occupy the top-10 places in the Premier League, Newcastle have collected a solitary point. That is just one point from 33.

Worryingly, nine of Newcastle's final 13 games are against teams who currently find themselves in the top half of the table. Burnley, Everton and Watford all appear beatable but the statistics suggest United will take little to nothing from the other six games.

Those other top-seven sides may not be as imperious as Man City - and they may not boast Newcastle's arch-nemesis Aguero in their ranks - but what they do have is top-flight quality and experience.

United do not. They have raw talent and promise - Jacob Murphy being the brightest spark of them all.

They have also guts, heart and endeavour, epitomised at the Etihad by Mo Diame's all-action performance and the excellent displays of their three centre-backs.

However, this team needs outside help. It needs reinforcements to arrive to elevate it from a side which can compete for 30 minutes against the very top clubs to a team which genuinely believes it can beat the likes of Man City and the rest of the top six.

For 34 minutes, Newcastle defended resolutely. Ciaran Clark, Jamaal Lascelles and Isaac Hayden - used as a makeshift centre-half in a back five - kept Man City quiet, despite the home side enjoying more than 80-per-cent possession.

Yet, as soon as Kevin de Bruyne curled in a delicious ball for Aguero to glance in the opener, the Magpies looked like a beaten side - a 10-minute spell either side of Murphy's excellent solo goal aside.

Javier Manquillo had a nightmare at right-wing-back - having been terrorised by Leroy Sane for the majority of the game, he then allowed Raheem Sterling to skip past him into the box.

Manquillo clumsily threw out an arm and, though contact was minimal, a penalty was given which Aguero duly converted.

Burnley, Watford beatable, statistics United will to nothing other Perhaps Man City became a little complacent once they scored a second but, as the home side poured bodies forward, Clark spotted a gap in their defence and played an inch-perfect pass to release Murphy through the middle. Despite a poor touch, the 22-year-old still had the composure to dink the ball over an on-rushing Ederson and drag United back into the game.

Everton and all appear but the suggest take little from the six games Diame went close to equalising moments after too, as Newcastle finally began to offer an attacking threat.

Perhaps inevitably, however, once the game became stretched, Guardiola's PS300m side created opportunities of their own - and Aguero's hat-trick arrived, meaning the Argentine has now scored 14 goals in just 12 games against United.

Thankfully Newcastle have seen the back of the Argentine and of Man City for this season, but their record against top-half teams makes for worrying reading given the Magpies' run in.

Rafa Benitez is trying his best to eke as much as he can from this Championship squad but the Spaniard needs some reinforcements to arrive before he can really be confident he can keep United in the top flight this term.

and, spotted and played an release Perhaps once the. Burnley, Everton and Watford all appear beatable, but the statistics suggest United will take little to nothing from the other six games

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Sun (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 21, 2018
Words:634
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