In the usual pre-match interviews, Captain, Kevin Nolan, referring to the Aston Villa victory that sent Newcastle tumbling down to the Championship the season before last, said that “We haven’t got a score to settle or a point to prove as such,” though I would have thought that score was well and truly settled when a Chris Hughton and Kevin Nolan led side slaughtered the hapless Villans 6-0 in our home game earlier in the season. Of course, many Newcastle United away fans will also remember the rather disgraceful behaviour of some sections of the Aston Villa supporters as they savoured the schadenfreude of Newcastle’s relegation, but I won’t go into that in any detail here.
With much water having passed under the bridge since that glorious victory, including both sides being under different management and suffering with form that can be somewhat erratic, this game could be a hard one to predict. Having written that, Newcastle are seven places above Villa in the current Premier League table, though as most of you will no doubt know, this can be very deceptive this season with so few points separating the mid table from the bottom. In the case of Aston Villa who are teetering over the relegation abyss, and seemingly comfortable in mid table Newcastle, it is only five points.
Aston Villa’s last three ganes have been fairly poor. Although the last one was a 2-2 draw with Everton, that game was preceded by two defeats to Wolves and Bolton respectively. In the Premier League game before that however, Villa did hammer another of the “glamour” sides, Blackburn, 4-1, at their Villa Park home, just as wor lads administered a similar 4-1 thrashing to the aforementioned Wolves side at St James’s Park last week.
Villa’s dangerman could be England hitman, Darren Bent. Despite only joining the club in a £24 million move from the Mackem Tramps in January, he could overtake Ashley Young to become Aston Villa’s top scorer for the season if he scores one or more goals today. On the other hand, Aston Villa’s weak spot could be corners and headed goals, or even both together, as they have conceeded more of these (13 of each) than any other Premier League side.
On the team news front, Newcastle United’s rather woeful injury record under Alan Pardew continues, along with a suspended trio of naughty boys in the shape of James Perch, Cheick ‘Lion King’ Tiote, and the captain himself, Kevin ‘Chicken tonight’ Nolan. Earlier in the week, manager, Alan Pardew, announced that he was handing the Captain’s armband to a man who is no stranger to shouting and pointing alot while Nolan is out of the frame, his midfield sidekick, Joey Barton.
Getting back to the injuries though, this week saw the news that in form hitman, Leon Best will join Alan Smith in being knacked for the rest of the season, with Hatem Ben Arfa, Stephen Ireland also continuing their long spells out of the game, though Ireland would have been ineligible under the terms of his loan agreement from Aston Villa anyway. Young wonderbairn, Shane Ferguson will be out with a calf strain, but in better news, first choice left back, Jose Enrique, will be looking to return after his hamstring injury, and finally, Ryan Taylor will be allowed for selection after his three gane suspension.
On the Villa side, midfielder, Ciaran Clark will also be returning fron a suspension. However, other than that, it looks pretty much “Hunky Dory” for Napoleon’s Villa squad, with the French managerial maestro having more or less a full first team squad to select from.
Time / Venue: Sunday, 10th April, Villa Park, Birmingham. Kick off, 4PM.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
Televised: Sky Sports.
Update: Official Teamsheets.
Newcastle United: Steve Harper, Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson, Sanchez Jose Enrique, Joey Barton, Danny Guthrie, Fabricio Coloccini, Jonas Gutierrez, Nile Ranger, Peter Lvenkrands.
Subs: Tim Krul, Michael Richardson, Shane Ferguson, James Tavernier, Shefki Kuqi, Ryan Taylor, Ryan Donaldson.
Aston Villa: Brad Friedel, Kyle Walker, Richard Dunne, James Collins, Luke Young, Stewart Downing, Stiliyan Petrov, Jean Makoun, Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Darren Bent.
Subs: Marc Albrighton, Ciaran Clark, Nigel Reo-Coker, Carlos Cuellar, Andy Marshall, Emile Heskey, Robert Pires.