Newcastle manager Eddie Howe has warned his players to expect a backlash from Manchester City as they try to bounce back from their Champions League misery.
City were minutes away from booking a mouth-watering final with Premier League rivals Liverpool on Wednesday night when Real Madrid staged a remarkable last-minute fightback to overhaul them in a dramatic conclusion at the Bernabeu.
Pep Guardiola’s men have returned home licking their wounds as their latest European mission ended in yet another failure, but Howe is in no doubt what awaits his side when they race at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday to face a City side locked in a battle with the Reds for the league title.
When asked how they might be emotionally affected by their midweek disappointment, Howe replied, “Well, it can work both ways, can’t it? You can be affected emotionally for the positive or the negative, you don’t know.
“From our point of view, we will prepare 100 per cent for the best Manchester City and in that respect we have to be the best Newcastle we can be.”
Howe’s caution is based on his knowledge of Guardiola’s ability to refocus his troops and the belief that they were unlucky not to prevail in Spain.
He said: “It was a very difficult moment for them, I’m sure, because with very little playing time left, you think they got through, and they had chances to extend that lead.
“It just shows the beauty – not in their eyes – but the beauty of football in that it’s so unpredictable that the game is never in place until it’s over.
“I thought they were extremely unhappy. When you leave for Real Madrid, you know how difficult this game is and I think they understood a lot of aspects of their game. Unfortunately, they leave and leave the competition.
“I know it will be painful for them, but we know they have one of the best managers in the world to regroup and inspire them to come back, and that’s what we have to prepare for.”
Howe was disappointed with Newcastle’s loss to Liverpool at St James’ Park last Saturday and is hoping for more intensity this time around.
To that end, he could be boosted by the return of England full-back Kieran Trippier, who has been out of action with a metatarsal fracture since February 13, and top scorer Callum Wilson, who last played the December 27 following Achilles. and calf problems.