By Rob Stewart
Former Newcastle United and Manchester United winger Keith Gillespie is backing the Magpies to ruin Manchester City’s title dreams on Sunday and boost the Red Devils' hopes of beating their neighbours to the Premier League summit.
The 37-year-old Gillespie says he has seen enough of Newcastle this season to be certain that Alan Pardew’s side can halt the Premier League pacesetters and hand the initiative in the title race back to champions United, who currently trail the leaders on goal difference.
“There have been that many twists and turns in the season so far that no one would be surprised if there is another one this weekend and I can see them putting a spanner in the works for City,” Gillespie told Goal.com.
“Newcastle would be one of the last teams that you would pick for an away game at this stage of the season so it wouldn’t be a surprise if things were back in United’s hands on Sunday evening.
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"There would be lots of opponents that City would prefer at this stage of the season. It is definitely a very difficult game for them.
“Newcastle are more than capable of getting a result against City. Newcastle can beat absolutely anyone at St James’ Park and that includes City. You just have to see what happened when United went up there because they were defeated easily [3-0] that night.
“Obviously if Newcastle went out and got as much as a draw then United would be back in the driving seat when they play Swansea later on Sunday.”
City will be on a high after beating arch-rivals United 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium but Newcastle themselves will be buoyant having overcome Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge thanks to two goals from in-form Papiss Cisse.
“There will be lots of dangerous players in the Newcastle team but you have to look at the front three – Hatem Ben Arfa, Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba,” Gillespie went on.
“Cisse is in red-hot form and everything seems to be dropping for him at the moment.
“Ba hasn’t scored a goal recently but he is more than capable of weighing in with one but Ben Arfa is the one at the moment who is creating a lot and looks very positive at the moment so I would say that Ben Arfa is the one to watch.
“I say that because Ben Arfa is so tricky on the ball. He can go both ways, he has got control and if he gets a sight of goal then he shoots. His all-round game has just improved dramatically in the last couple of months.
While Ba and Cisse have received most of the plaudits this term, Gillespie, who now plays for League of Ireland side Longford Town, singled out French international Yohan Cabaye as Newcastle’s most influential figure this term.
He continued:“Everyone talks about Demba Ba as being their best player this season but he has gone off the boil a little bit recently and earlier this season Ben Arfa wasn’t really hitting the heights and Coloccini has been fantastic at the back but for me you have to look at the two midfielders – Cabaye and Tiote – as their best players and Cabaye just edges it.
“They’ve been so strong in there and Cabaye has chipped in with a few goals here and there so as far as I am concerned he is their star man even ahead of Papiss Cisse and all his goals because he has done it right throughout the season.”
Gillespie, who came through the ranks at Old Trafford alongside the likes of Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Gary Neville, helped Newcastle into the Champions League under Kenny Dalglish and he is hoping the Magpies can repeat the feat.
“That 4-0 defeat against Wigan was a little bit out of the blue when you consider how well Newcastle had been playing but then again Wigan deserve a lot of credit for the way they have been playing over the last few weeks,” he said.
"People might have been thinking that because they were beaten at Wigan that’s them gone but they showed at Chelsea that couldn’t have been further from the truth and that reflects a lot of character in their camp.
“They’ve obviously got a lot of belief there now. A lot of people are very surprised about where they are in the league but they deserve to be there because of the way they have been playing.
"It has been a great season no matter how the last two games go but it would be great if they can get a good result against City to keep alive their Champions League hopes and then another one at Everton."
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“Newcastle fans will create a great atmosphere on Sunday,” he said. “I know from experience that the last home game of the season is special at St James’ Park because there will be a lap of honour afterwards to thanks the fans.
"The Newcastle players will be wanting to do that after a good performance so they will be well up for it and whatever happens City will know they have been in a game.
“I really hope Newcastle can clinch a Champions League spot. St James’ Park is a great stage for European football. I was fortunate enough to play there in the Champions League and the noise the fans made was incredible.
"That was 15 years ago and the capacity has increased so I’m sure the noise levels have increased so it will be great if they can there.
“If they are going to get there they will be doing it the hard way. All three of their last games are tough, and in going to Everton on the last day of the season they will be up against one of the Premier League’s form teams.”Follow Rob Stewart on