MIDFIELD generals may play a large part in today’s Premier League battle between Newcastle United and Manchester City.
THE first 50-50 challenge today that brings together Cheick Tiote and Yaya Toure could be rather spectacular.
Depending upon how strong your constitution is you will either need to look away from the carnage or won’t be able to take your eyes from the blood and thunder.
For those who indulge in a spot of spread betting, you can probably get odds of 100-1-on that this meeting of minds happens within the first five minutes of the game – and then at five-minute intervals after that.
Tiote’s love of the darker side of football is well known. His 30-plus bookings for Newcastle tells you that this is a man who doesn’t do holding back, something that has got him into a bit of bother,
But for those of us who like our footie old-school style, there is nothing better than seeing a midfielder tearing into tackles all over the park. Especially when it is against another warrior, which Manchester City’s Toure most certainly is.
It is all good clean (ish) fun.
On the international scene, the pair are friends and team-mates with the Ivory Coast, and will travel back home together for the African Cup of Nations next month.
But that friendship will be forgotten about today in a match that both sides are desperate to win for very different reasons.
Toure and his City side will still be smarting from last week’s derby defeat. Newcastle simply needs three points to get this domestic season going again.
It will not be a place for the faint-hearted. Tiote can’t wait.
Tiote said: “I know Yaya very well and he’s a great player. It’s always so difficult to play against him and because of this we have to stick together as a team. I am very excited to come up against him, though.
“We’ve played together many times for the national team – but it’s no good to play against him! I have too many jobs to do.
“I spoke to him last week and we do talk on a regular basis. I have known Yaya for many, many years. I first met him when I was very young in the Ivory Coast and I grew up with him. But it’s not all about Yaya for City – they have so many excellent players.
“When he was younger he was smaller, but not as broad. Now he is big and tall and very powerful. He is much bigger now. It will be very tough against him.
“He is playing in a different position to where he’s played in the past. He is a lot more forward than he used to be and he played in a more defensive position than mine.
“I’m looking forward to tackling Yaya and I always do everything I can to win. I have had some battles with him in the past – we played against each other at Manchester City and lost but were very unlucky. It was a good game though, as was my battle with him. It was part of it.” The other Toure brother, Kolo, is likely to feature today as well, at the heart of Manchester City’s defence.
Tiote revealed: “Kolo is much louder, whereas Yaya is very humble. Kolo talks with everyone, but they are very different. Both are nice people.”
Both are nice footballers as well, but then when you have one of the world’s richest families bankrolling you, as City do, there is no excuse for having bad players on the staff.
So this is going to be a major test for a Newcastle side that have lost five out of their last six Premier League matches, a run that has included dreadful home defeats to West Ham United and Swansea.
Newcastle supporters are by and large a positive lot, but there will be some heading to St James’ Park today fearing the worst.
However, to suggest Newcastle have no chance is ridiculous.
City do not look as powerful as a year ago. That’s the good news for Alan Pardew.
However, there is undoubted talent throughout the team and you would expect Roberto Mancini to drop Mario Balotelli, who these days just gets in the way of his team-mates.
City are a better team without him, which they almost certainly will be today.
So for United to take anything from this game, even a point, players needs to rediscover their best form.
Tiote said: “It’s a good game for us and very important as we have lost too many games in the last few weeks. If we win on Saturday against the champions it will be great for our confidence.”
He will never say a truer word.
Beat City today and Newcastle will feel much better about where they are at this moment in time.
Tiote is a prime example of a player who has struggled for form, although he is far from the only one.
And he admitted that things could have gone better for him.
Tiote said: “It’s been much more difficult for me but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Sometimes it’s harder to play every week with injuries and suspensions. It has been bad for the team and myself.
“We started the season well with the win over Spurs but there have been far too many injuries and suspensions as well as losing far too many games.”