Premier League Preview and Prediction: Newcastle vs Aston Villa

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

Match Preview

Newcastle host struggling Aston Villa in a huge Premier League clash on Saturday evening in a game between two sides already involved in an early season relegation fight.

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.

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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.

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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.

Team News

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.

Key Points

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.

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Score Prediction

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.

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STATS: Is Chris Smalling the best centre-back in England?

Former Manchester United defender Gary Pallister has labelled Chris Smalling as the best centre-back in the Premier League after a fine start to the season, helping United to boast the best defensive record in the top flight after 12 games.

Smalling was regularly criticised following his move to Old Trafford from Fulham in 2010 as he struggled to impress in the few starts he was given.

But under Louis Van Gaal’s guidance, the 25-year-old has become one of the most solid defenders in English football and many feel that there is no one better in his position right now. But what do the stats say?

Table: Chris Smalling's 2015/16 statistics compared to some of the best centre-backs in England.

Table: Chris Smalling’s 2015/16 statistics compared to some of the best centre-backs in England.

When comparing Smalling’s statistics to some of the most highly rated defenders in the Premier League, it’s clear he is not the best on English shores.

Vincent Kompany and Laurent Koscielny are viewed by many as two of the finest defenders in Europe, let alone the Premier League and Koscielny, in particular, outshines Smalling in terms of aerial dominance as well as interceptions and blocks.

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John Stones is also held in high esteem by English football fans across the country. He has made more tackles and blocks per game than Smalling so far but is outperformed by his England partner aerially with the United man also making more interceptions and clearances per game.

Then we come to Chancel Mbemba, who is the surprise addition in the comparison above. The Newcastle man doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of the best centre-back in the Premier League but maybe he should be further forward in the thinking process, especially if looking at his statistical performances.

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He outshines Kompany, Stones, Koscielny and Smalling in terms of tackles won per game and has also made more blocks and clearances than any of the other four. In fact, Mbemba has won more tackles in the Premier League than any other central defender after 12 games.

It’s worth noting Mbemba has more defensive work to do than someone like Smalling but perhaps claims that the Manchester United man is the best in his position need to be reconsidered, at least for now.

Do you think Chris Smalling is the best centre-back in the Premier League? Who is better?