Man City v Newcastle preview
Last two unbeaten records on the line in table-topping clash
By Jonathan Jurejko. Last Updated: November 18, 2011 4:12pm
The Premier League's final two unbeaten records go on the line when leaders Manchester City host surprise package Newcastle United on Saturday.
Both sides have made fantastic starts to the season against a backdrop of contrasting expectations.
Mega-rich City were always expected to run perennial challengers Manchester United and Chelsea close in the race for the title, but even the most optimistic Eastlands supporters may have been shocked by their side's rampant start.
Previously conservative Italian boss Roberto Mancini has allowed his side to break free from their shackles and turned free-scoring City into the Premier League's most attractive attacking force - even without AWOL Carlos Tevez.
But the leaders, who have won 10 and drawn one of their 11 games, may find breaking down third-placed Newcastle's mean defence a tougher proposition.
The Magpies' rise up the table has been based on their solid defensive unit, with Alan Pardew's men the only team to have conceded fewer goals then City.
Few would have expected Newcastle, who replaced key players with cost-effective unknown quantities like Yohan Cabaye and Sylvain Marveaux over the summer, to be pitched among the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea in the top four.
They have made a blistering start which has yielded seven victories and four draws from their 11 matches.
However, critics would argue they have not been fully tested by any of the Premier League's big guns and face their sternest test of their credentials yet at the Etihad Stadium.
Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa returns to the ground for the first time since suffering a double leg fracture in a challenge by City's Nigel de Jong in October last year.
City striker Sergio Aguero will be monitored ahead of the clash but a groin injury aggravated on international duty is not thought to be serious.
Midfielder Owen Hargreaves has recovered from a minor calf problem but will not be considered due to a lack of match fitness.
Captain Vincent Kompany returns from suspension but Carlos Tevez, still absent in Argentina, is out of contention.
Mancini may be tempted to make full use of his squad with a number of players having played two games during the international break.
Newcastle counterpart Pardew will once again be without key midfielder Cheik Tiote.
The Ivory Coast international is close to a return after a knee problem, but is unlikely to do so before next weekend's visit to Manchester United.
French midfielder Marveaux is expected to be sidelined for an extended period as he prepares to undergo groin surgery.
Leon Best (groin) and Gabriel Obertan (infected toe) are also doubts, although striker Shola Ameobi should be available after shaking off a hamstring injury.
Possible starting XIs
Manchester City: Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Y Toure, De Jong, Silva, Aguero, Balotelli, Dzeko.
Newcastle: Krul, Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, R. Taylor, Obertan, Cabaye, Guthrie, Gutierrez, Best, Ba.
Barclays Premier League
|13||West Bromwich Albion||14||15|
|17||West Ham United||14||13|