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Man City warms up for visit of Barcelona by thrashing Newcastle 5-0 in Premier League

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MANCHESTER, England — Manchester City regained its attacking swagger in time for the visit of Barcelona in the Champions League by thrashing Newcastle 5-0 on Saturday, and trimming the gap to English Premier League leader Chelsea to five points.

The champions were 3-0 ahead within 21 minutes through goals by Sergio Aguero — from the penalty spot — Samir Nasri, and the impressive Edin Dzeko. Early in the second half, Spain playmaker David Silva scored twice in the space of two minutes.

New signing Wilfried Bony came on as a 60th-minute substitute for his debut, five weeks after signing from Swansea for an initial fee of 25 million pounds ($38.5 million), and was denied a first goal by goalkeeper Tim Krul's fine save in the 76th.

It was the ideal warm-up for City ahead of the first-leg match against Barcelona in the last 16 of Europe's top competition on Tuesday — and completed a successful day for the champions after Chelsea surprisingly drew 1-1 against Burnley to reinvigorate the title race.

City came from behind in the final weeks to win titles in 2012 and last season.

"Maybe five points is still a lot," Dzeko said, "but if we can continue to play like that we can definitely catch them."

After a difficult January when City fell away from Chelsea in the league and was eliminated from the FA Cup by second-tier Middlesbrough, Manuel Pellegrini's side has rediscovered its scoring brio. Coming after a 4-1 win at Stoke, that's nine goals in two games for City, which also has star midfielder Yaya Toure and Bony back from the African Cup of Nations.

"Not only we won, we returned to being a scoring team here," Pellegrini said. "We were a solid team, and an aggressive team from the beginning."

Dzeko's place in City's attack is under threat following the arrival of Bony, but the Bosnian's response was to produce his best performance of the season, showing strength, alertness, and incisiveness in an opening spell that saw City blow Newcastle away.

PHOTO: Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, centre left, celebrates with teammates after scoring against the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England, Saturday Feb. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, centre left, celebrates with teammates after scoring against the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England, Saturday Feb. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

He pounced on an error by Vurnon Anita near the Newcastle area and was tripped by the midfielder just 24 seconds in. Aguero nonchalantly tucked away the penalty for his 22nd goal of the season in all competitions.

Dzeko's deflected pass then fell into the path of Nasri, who dribbled past a prone defender and slammed a left-foot shot into the roof of the net after 12 minutes.

Worse was to come in the 21st for Newcastle's pitiful defense as Silva arrowed a brilliant pass over the top to Dzeko, who chested down and side-footed a finish with his left foot past Krul.

"I don't see Wilfried Bony as competition," Dzeko said. "He is very welcome, he scores many goals, and will bring something much more to our team."

Toure eased back into the team in his first appearance for the champions in six weeks, spraying around passes, and dominating central midfield. Aguero also looked sharp again after a lull on his return from five weeks injured, and he played a key part in both of Silva's goal.

A searching run from halfway by Aguero in the 51st ended with him crossing to Nasri, who squared the ball to Silva. The midfielder controlled it and placed a finish into the corner from 12 meters.

Aguero then chested down Toure's long pass, and Silva ran onto the free ball to fire a firm shot into the far corner from outside the area.

Pellegrini had the luxury of taking Silva and Aguero off on the hour, as Bony was introduced to loud cheers at Etihad Stadium.

Newcastle lost 4-0 on its last visit to City in the league, on the opening day of last season.

Newcastle manager John Carver apologized to the club's visiting fans and said: "We came up against a top side. I have seen better sides than us come here and get a hiding."

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PHOTO: Manchester City's Edin Dzeko celebrates after scoring  during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Newcastle at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England, Saturday Feb. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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