Player To Watch: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City vs Newcastle)

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To point out that Manchester City boast a decent, recent record against Newcastle United seems to be somewhat unnecessary given the fact that the Blues only lost to two league opponents last season, while the past decade has seen one club regularly challenge for titles and the other consistently struggle against the tide. Even with this established disparity factored in however it is a head-to-head that is outstandingly one-sided.

Since September 2005 they have encountered one another 21 times in the Premier League and City have come out on top in 18 of those games, drawing the remaining three. In the last five years alone they have won by a four-plus margin on four separate occasions. The aggregate score-line from all these games combined is a merciless 54 to 11.

For whatever reason, irrespective of who is prowling the technical area or centre-circle, the Blues appear to come alive when playing their north-east peers.

And the same can absolutely said of Sergio Aguero. The Argentine hit-man has unfailingly terrorised defences regardless of their stature since his arrival in England seven years ago, but against the Magpies he is especially prolific, scoring 14 times in ten league games; a figure that is all the more incredible when it’s considered that Aguero was subbed or started on the bench for most of them. All told this equates to a goal every 59 minutes, a statistic that brings to mind the old joke that usually has ‘newspaper’ as its punchline: what is black and white and read all over? Newcastle’s back-line when City’s number 10 is around.

It is a ratio that astounds, though admittedly it is slightly skewed by a trouncing in October 2015 that saw Aguero blast five in just over an hour. Last season, in the same fixture that this Saturday heralds at the Etihad, he scored a perfect hat-trick.

It is no surprise to learn then that the striker has scored more goals against Newcastle than any other side but it is not for this reason alone that he will be licking his lips ahead of this weekend’s contest. Because more fundamental than even the numbers is the exciting news that Sergio Aguero is back.

At first glance that appears to be a baseless statement. After all, the arch-poacher has broken the 20-goal barrier for three seasons running and has now reached such an elevated plateau through his longevity that he seems to be breaking long-standing records every other month.

That though would be over-looking the undeniable truth that Aguero has achieved a great deal of his success in recent times while being hampered with injuries and niggles. Excuse the pun, but for so long now he has been hamstrung, forever teetering on the point of collapse and playing at 70% because even a club as rich in resources as Manchester City are utterly dependent on a forward as clinical as he.

That however is no longer the case. “He suffered the previous years with a little bit of a problem and Ramon Cugat – the best doctor in the world – made the perfect surgery and now he feels free,” Pep Guardiola exclaimed at the beginning of the campaign, adding that he was genuinely surprised at how much difference the surgery had made to his star forward pre and post-World Cup. “I think its good news for us for the season,” he concluded with a smile.

That last bit is quite some under-statement because since the campaign got underway Aguero has looked turbo-charged, rejuvenated and sharper than he has for many a season. His work-rate has been exemplary while his movement and finishing has a hunger that evokes his debut displays back in 2011/12. Three goals in three starts is testament to that.

Last week Rafa Benitez – and by extension his team – received a royal dressing down from the pundits for the extreme manner in which they attempted to negate Chelsea. With an intimidating trip to the Etihad posing even risks don’t expect the wily tactician to pay any heed to such criticisms and no doubt Newcastle will be set up to defend and defend deep from the off on Saturday lunchtime.

Will that be enough to keep out the nemesis of Tyneside? Recent history adamantly says not.

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