LONDON. — Wilfried Bony believes he can be Manchester City’s secret weapon in the English Premier League soccer title race as he prepares to make his debut against Newcastle today. Bony joined Manuel Pellegrini’s side from Swansea in a £28 million move during the January transfer window, but has yet to make his bow in a City shirt after spending the last few weeks helping Cote d’Ivoire win the African Cup of Nations.
The 26-year-old is in contention to finally give City fans a first glimpse of their new signing when Newcastle visit Eastlands in a fixture crucial to their hopes of retaining the English title.
Second-placed City could be 10 points behind leaders Chelsea by the time they kick off at 7:30pm as Jose Mourinho’s team will have finished their match against struggling Burnley earlier in the day.
But Bony, who netted 34 times in 70 appearances for Swansea, is confident he can give a timely lift to a City attack that has sometimes struggled when Sergio Aguero has been injured or off-form this season.
“It feels like a while since I signed the contract, but finally I’m here, I’m really happy about that and now I’m just focusing on this Saturday’s game,” Bony said.
“It’s not easy because I’ve just arrived from Africa and I will have had five days of training before we play Newcastle.
“If I am needed, I have a good record against Newcastle. I’ve scored three goals in two games against them.
“They are a good side and are strong at the back, but they are coming to our stadium and we need to win this game.”
Chelsea, bolstered by their hard-fought 1-1 draw at Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League last 16 first leg in midweek, will be expected to brush aside Burnley, who haven’t won at Stamford Bridge since 1971.
The Clarets, second bottom of the table after four league games without a win, took a shock lead through Scott Arfield when the sides met in the season’s opening round of fixtures.
But Chelsea hit back to win 3-1 and Burnley boss Sean Dyche said: “At the beginning of the season I thought anyone who finishes above them must be some side and I still think that because they’ve got strength everywhere, they’re showing that, and they just keep getting results whichever way they need to.
“We’re not like a non-league side going there. We’ve shown we’re capable to compete at this level. We have that underdog spirit but also that freedom to play.”
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has a chance to avenge the defeat that started his Old Trafford reign on a low note when his side travel to Swansea.
Van Gaal saw United crash to a shock 1-0 defeat against Swansea on the opening day of the season, courtesy of Gylfi Sigurdsson’s goal.
But third-placed United have gradually improved during the Dutchman’s first season in charge and winger Ashley Young credits their ascent, after last season’s travails under David Moyes, to the squad’s spirit.
“All the boys in the dressing room are fighting for each other and when you have that off the pitch you take it on to the pitch,” Young said.
“We showed that at Preston on Monday night from the first minute to the last and in the way we came back into the game and won it.”
The tense race to qualify for the Champions League should take a few more twists and turns this weekend, with fourth-placed Southampton hosting Liverpool, who are only four points behind in seventh.
Arsenal, one point behind Southampton in fifth place, travel to Crystal Palace and sixth-placed Tottenham, three points adrift of the Saints, take on London rivals West Ham at White Hart Lane.
Aston Villa’s new manager Tim Sherwood, whose side is languishing in the relegation zone, needs to make a fast start at home to Stoke.
(all 5pm unless otherwise stated)
Today: Aston Villa v Stoke, Chelsea v Burnley, Crystal Palace v Arsenal, Hull v QPR, Manchester City v Newcastle (7:30pm), Sunderland v West Brom, Swansea v Manchester United
Tomorrow: Everton v Leicester (6:05pm), Southampton v Liverpool (6:15pm), Tottenham v West Ham (2pm) — AFP.