Manchester City vs Newcastle : Manchester City head to Newcastle United on Tuesday evening in the knowledge that victory will move them to within a point of Premier League leaders Liverpool.
The Citizens are in action before their title rivals, who host Leicester City 24 hours later, and can up the pressure on the Reds with a fifth top-flight win in a row.
“Disappointment” is the word Rafael Benitez used on the back of his side’s latest FA Cup failure, as the Magpies once again missed out on the chance to give supporters reason to dream that a rare cup run could be on the cards.
Benitez made seven changes for the fourth-round tie against Watford – four fewer than the visitors to St James’ Park – and saw his side fall to a 2-0 defeat to leave them battling on just one front in the final four months of another underwhelming season.
It was telling that owner Mike Ashley stayed away at the weekend, perhaps knowing what was to come. Still, Ashley’s absence did not stop supporters venting their fury towards him, wherever he was in the world.
The defeat to Watford came a week on from Newcastle’s impressive 3-0 victory over Cardiff City – a result that appeared to rejuvenate the club as they climbed out of the relegation zone at the expense of their opponents.
That is the first time United have netted three goals in a league game this term and it is also more goals than they had managed in their previous five matches in the competition, scoring just twice in that run.
Benitez will point out that his side faced – and lost to – Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea in that run, but there were was also a goalless home draw against fellow strugglers Fulham and a 1-1 draw at FA Cup conquerors Watford.
The win against Cardiff came at just the right time, then, leaving Newcastle two points above the dropzone ahead of this daunting visit of the champions.
Not since November have they managed back-to-back league wins, doing so with victories over Watford, Bournemouth and Burnley. Since then, Benitez’s men have collected nine points from a possible 30.
A better omen for the Magpies is that they have won four of their last six home Premier League games against sides starting the day in the top two, however, losing only to Arsenal in December 2013 and Man City in December 2017.