Toure's return can't come soon enough for Man City – but Colback will have his say
Yaya Toure's return has been long overdue, and with the 4-1 defeat of Stoke something of an anomaly amid a painfully long sequence of winless games without their talisman, he will need to be at his destructive best on Saturday if Manchester City are to revive their wilting title challenge.
In his absence, countless City matches have desperately cried out for his penetration; without his powerful presence in the centre of the pitch sucking opposition players towards him, City's primary creative outlets – namely David Silva and Jesus Navas – have struggled to find space to weave their magic.
Taken from comparative matches either side of Toure's departure, this highlights the difficulty City's playmakers had in penetrating defences. Nasri's joy against Hull came via set-pieces.
Manipulating the opposition and fashioning space will be particularly difficult against Newcastle, given that John Carver's tactical philosophy has been to extend and entrench the counter-attacking model of the Alan Pardew era. Since his appointment as interim manager, the Magpies have sat in compact defensive lines, breaking forward with speed and incision when the opportunity arises.
Note how deep Newcastle's defensive actions took place, and how frequently they attempt take-ons out wide.
It is Jack Colback's quick distribution that initiates the majority of these attacks, but as usual it will be his defensive work – and ability to stamp out Toure's influence – that will take priority. Amassing 2.3 tackles and 2.2 interceptions per game on average, the Tynesider's aggressive break-up play and positional intelligence are vital in the continued absence of the injured Cheick Tiote.
As in these fixtures, Newcastle will be relying upon Colback to make significant defensive contributions in central areas (green icons are successes: crosses are tackles, circles clearances and diamonds interceptions).
All eyes will be on Toure come Saturday evening, but it could be Colback who, by turning over possession and beginning the counter-attack, helps decide this game at the Etihad Stadium.