Competition: Premier League – Newcastle United vs. Aston Villa
Venue: St James’ Park – Saturday, December 19 – 17:30 GMT (12:30 ET)
Match Odds: Newcastle 1/1 – Draw 12/5 – Aston Villa 11/4
The home side have picked up their form in the past two weeks, picking up wins against Liverpool and Tottenham in games that looked daunting beforehand.
Steve McClaren’s side are still embroiled in a relegation fight as they sit just two points above the drop zone and will see fixtures like this one as an absolute must win.
Villa travel to Newcastle in crisis. They sit bottom of the table heading into Christmas and are eight points from safety. The odds are stacked against them and their recent form won’t exactly give travelling fans confidence this weekend.
The Villains haven’t won since the opening weekend and have lost 12 of 15 games since. They have just six points from 16 games and are in a real mess.
To put their terrible run into perspective, Newcastle have picked up as many points in their last two games as Villa have all season.
Add in the fact that Newcastle’s recent record against Villa is excellent (they’ve not lost to Aston Villa in their last eight meetings, winning five), and it’s hard to see the visiting side picking up anything from Tyneside on Saturday.
Newcastle boss Steve McClaren has a worryingly long injury list at the worst time of the year. As many as ten first team names will miss this one in the shape of Massadio Haidara, Rolando Aarons, Curtis Good, Tim Krul, Gabriel Obertan, Steven Taylor, Cheick Tiote, Michael Williamson, Emmanuel Riviere and Jamaal Lascelles.
Aston Villa head coach Remi Garde is sweating over the fitness of Micah Richards ahead of this crunch clash. The English defender is likely to miss the game, while Jordan Amavi remains out for the season. Gary Gardner is also ruled out, while Jose Angel Crespo is a doubt.
Newcastle’s last five: W/L/L/W/W
Aston Villa’s last five: D/L/L/D/L
Key Stat: Aston Villa have not won at Newcastle since 2005 and are winless against the Magpies in their last eight league games.
Key Player: Chancel Mbemba – The Newcastle centre-back has quietly been impressing on Tyneside since moving to the Premier League in the summer. He has completed more tackles than any other centre-back in the top flight and will look to shutout the Villa defence here.
Newcastle 2-0 Aston Villa – Newcastle have hardly been the best side in the Premier League this season but you don’t have to be to beat Aston Villa nowadays. Back-to-back wins over Liverpool and Spurs have lifted confidence among the Toon faithful and a win against Villa on Saturday should make it three from three.