Manchester City will still be without reigning Premier League Golden Boot winner Erling Haaland when they travel north on Saturday to visit Newcastle United, who also continue to be ravaged by injuries.
The recent return of attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne should have third-place City (12-3-4, 40 points) in a better position than in recent weeks as they look to close the five-point gap with Liverpool at the top of the table.
Haaland is still tied for the current league lead with 14 goals despite being out since early December with a foot injury. There was some hope he could return for Saturday’s clash on Tyneside, but City manager Pep Guardiola said Friday it will still be too soon for the Norwegian star.
However, De Bruyne could be ready to make a bigger impact than in previous Premier League matches after sustaining a serious hamstring injury during the league opener in August.
The Belgian international came off the bench in City’s 5-0 FA Cup victory over Huddersfield Town on Sunday. He’s played only 22 Premier League minutes, robbing City of their most consistent creative force in recent seasons. The 32-year-old has 20 or more goal contributions (goals, plus assists) in every Premier League season in which he’s played at least 30 games.
“I saw him yesterday, and he feels good and dynamic,” Guardiola said of De Bruyne. “He played good — better than the sessions before Huddersfield.
“It was five months; he was high and low in training as he recovered, which was normal, but he’s getting better.”
Ninth-place Newcastle (9-9-2, 29 points) has been through injury woes even more than City and doesn’t have immediate good news on that front to provide a boost heading into Saturday’s contest.
Influential midfielder Joelinton is the latest to succumb, with Newcastle manager Eddie Howe revealing the Brazilian is expected to miss at least six weeks with a thigh injury.
Striker Callum Wilson — whose seven goals are second most on the team — is the among the other key absences that have contributed to an inconsistent league campaign and early exits from the UEFA Champions League and League Cup.
“We haven’t wanted to focus on the injury situation because there’s not much good to be had from talking about it consistently or highlighting it,” Howe said. “Unfortunately for us, any injury we’ve picked up hasn’t been a one-week or two-week injury. Everything’s been six to eight weeks, at a time where we can’t afford it.”
But the Magpies will have a less congested schedule in the back half of the season, which should help combat some of those woes.
Their most recent performance — a 3-0 FA Cup win over local rivals Sunderland complete with two goals from striker Alexander Isak — suggested a team finally catching its collective breath after a grueling fall.
–Field Level Media
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