IT is the game where Newcastle United are finally expected to slip up, but speak to members of the squad ahead of today's trip to Premier League table-toppers Manchester City, and they will tell you they've heard that plenty of times before.

Arsenal at home? That'll be a tough one. Sunderland away? Tricky so early in the season. Stoke at the Britannia? Surely that's as difficult as they come.

Eleven tests; eleven obstacles negotiated. So when Newcastle travel to the Etihad Stadium this afternoon, they will do so with an unexpected spring in their step. Having confounded expectations so often this season, why shouldn't they do so again?

"People have been expecting us to trip up all season and that's spurred us on," said midfielder Danny Guthrie, who will make his third league start in a row in the continued absence of the injured Cheik Tiote.

"Every week it seems as though people are saying, ‘This is the game where it's going to end'. But we keep grinding results out and winning.

"When we went to Stoke, we were in a similar boat with people predicting a tough time. There's no tougher test than any of the three games we have coming up, but it would be nice to get something out of them and make people eat their words once again."

To do that, though, Newcastle will have to neuter a Manchester City side threatening to sweep all before them en route to a first top-flight title since 1968.

Last month's dismantling of Manchester United sent a shudder through the rest of the Premier League, with City's galaxy of attacking stars proving much too good for arguably their only viable rivals for top spot.

City have scored at least two goals in every league game they have played this season, and while Newcastle will kick off with the best defensive record in the top-flight, the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Edin Dzeko will serve up a formidable test.

"We know this will be a big challenge, but it's one we're really looking forward to," said Guthrie. "I'd put the two Manchester clubs clear of everyone else. They stick out as being miles ahead.

"But the biggest compliment is that hopefully they're not looking forward to playing against Newcastle United. Hopefully, they're looking at it and thinking they're playing against an unbeaten side as well, wondering how they're going to get past us.

"It's nice that people are wondering if this is the time Newcastle are going to come unstuck because we're already in the middle of November. That says something."

With Tiote nursing a knee injury, Guthrie will continue his partnership with Yohan Cabaye, having impressed in recent wins over Stoke and Everton.

The 24-year-old was left kicking his heels at the start of the season, with an ankle injury sustained in the pre-season friendly at Darlington wrecking his chances of claiming a starting spot for the opening game of the campaign.

In his absence, Tiote and Cabaye blended superbly, something Guthrie admits was both pleasing and frustrating in equal measure.

"It's a bit of a double-edged sword," he said. "It's frustrating because you're desperate to be playing, but it's also great to watch them playing like that because you want the team to do well.

"You can still take pleasure from watching them do a great tackle or play a really good ball. Some of the things Cheik in particular does, you just have to sit back and admire. There's no bitterness.

"The manager picks the team and that's that. It's been a frustrating few months because I was injured in pre-season for the second time in a row and that makes it really difficult. You feel like you're always playing catch up."

Finally back to full fitness, Guthrie's recent displays have been good enough to spark talk of a new deal, with his current contract due to expire at the end of the season.

At the beginning of the current campaign, a parting of the ways next summer seemed likely. Suddenly, though, with Sammy Ameobi's new three-and-a-half year deal agreed, sorting out Guthrie's future is at the top of Alan Pardew's to-do list.

"It's brilliant to hear talk about a new contract," said the former Liverpool trainee. "There's been no rush to this point. Even though I'm out of contract in the summer, it's been important for me to concentrate on playing well.

"The priority has been nailing my place down in the team, then thoughts can turn to talks about a contract.

"I'm desperate to stay though. I really enjoy it here and have loved working under the manager. I've had a few in my time! It seems like he's here for the long haul, so hopefully I will be too."