The Premier League's two remaining unbeaten records will be on the line at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday and it could be worth investing in a slow-burner between Manchester City and Newcastle with a bet on the 0-0 half-time correct score at 11/4.
City are widely-expected to extend their lead at the top of the table ahead of Manchester United's televised match at Swansea, but we shouldn't expect Newcastle to surrender their proud start cheaply. The Magpies have surprised many by reaching the season's third international break without a league defeat and we shouldn't underestimate the role that this latest two-week lay-off might have on the complexion of this game.
With Edin Dzeko playing as the lone front man for the entireity of Bosnia's Euro 2012 play-off double-header with Portugal and Sergio Aguero involved in Argentina's World Cup qualifying win over Colombia in the early hours of Wednesday morning, City might not be quite as sprightly in the final third as they have been ever since their 6-1 mauling of arch-rivals at Old Trafford.
Meanwhile, another significant absentee could be David Silva whose rebirth in the Spanish national side took him to Costa Rica on the back of last Saturday's defeat at Wembley.
Robtero Mancini has never made any secret of his frustration in such scenarios and given the hand that he has been dealt, it seems most likely that he will turn to Mario Balotelli to lead the attack, flanked by Samir Nasri and Adam Johnson. By no means is that a sub-standard front three, but it is one of the lesser developed combinations and it does at least put Alan Pardew in a position whereby he can prepare his team in finer detail than most, at least for the initial phase of the match.
Mancini, of course, has the luxury of being able to mix things up later in the game and any of those aforementioned luxuries can change the pattern of the game in a 20-minute cameo but Pardew might be inclined to take his chances on keeping things tight until that point, condensing the contest into a smaller timeframe when a swift counter or a timely set piece is much more likely to deliver maximum reward.
The case for this bet is only enhanced by City's first-half record at home so far with Swansea, Everton and Wolves all reaching the interval intact, while Newcastle have shown no shortage of resolve over 45 minutes with clean sheets in four of their five away games up to this point.
1pt Man City v Newcastle to be goalless at half-time at 11/4 (general)
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