Date: 5th February 2012
Kick Off: 1.30pm
Referee: Mark Halsey
I never used to bother much about Aston Villa. They were just one of those “middle of the road” clubs who chug along season after season with reasonable-sized crowds but nothing particular to shout about. I got a bit annoyed at them when they kept trying to pinch James Milner a few years ago, but I suppose the point at which my attitude towards them changed significantly was in May of 2009.
It was during the game we lost at Villa Park which sealed our relegation from the Premier League. Being relegated was a massive blow to United, the club, the management, the fans – but the puerile chanting and infantile banners on display that day by a section of the Villa support were a disgrace to their club and will live long in the memory. These days I therefore have them in the same list as the likes of Tottenham and Man Utd – teams I just love to see us beat – for various reasons I won’t go into here, but which I’m sure some of you share.
With this in mind, Villa could hardly be arriving at St James’ Park at a better time. United are back in town after three away games on the trot culminating in the win at Blackburn Rovers. Demba Ba is also back from his exploits with Senegal and is raring to get amongst the goals once again. He’s certain to start. This time of course, we also have his Senegalese strike partner Papiss Demba Cisse in the squad, wearing the famous Newcastle United number nine shirt. We don’t know at this stage whether Cisse will start the game. Manager Alan Pardew has been hinting at allowing him to soak up the atmosphere from the bench first, before unleashing him to what would be a certain gladitorial entrance, the likes of which only a Newcastle crowd can conjure up. It’s a judgement call. Personally, the way the weather is in the North East at the moment, especially the temperature, I’d let him on from the start so he can run around and keep warm!
Villa have a good record on the road, having not lost their last 5 games. But then, Manchester United came here with a good away record on 4th January 2012 and left with their tails between their legs after a 3-0 drubbing – so let’s not get too excited about Villa. I’m sure Alan Pardew would say “it’s important to concentrate on what we do and make sure we take the game to them” or words to that effect. The other thing of note to say about Villa’s visit is that we expect to see Shay Given return to St James’ for the first time since he left at the beginning of 2009. Another Newcastle boy back in town! A great servant to the club and a popular player here, I’m sure Shay will be given a warm welcome back by the Geordie faithful, who will then hope he has a stinker between the posts!
We often discuss and criticise players on nufcblog.org and that’s fine, everybody is entitled to their opinion. But there’s always a question about whether that criticism should spill over into games when a player is having a bad match, and what impact it has on their confidence. Interesting therefore to hear what Gabriel Obertan had to say about the United fans after his excellent goal at Blackburn:
“It was great to have them supporting me and singing my name. I know they are always behind me, even when it’s been really tough.
“I’d like to thank them for their support – it’s important to me.”
The match will be broadcast live on Sky Sports 1. As usual nufcblog.org will be having our match banter feature which will be on this very blog about an hour before kick-off.
Newcastle United Team News
As stated earlier, Ba and Cisse are very welcome additions to the squad who pulled off that away win at Blackburn. Yohan Cabaye will serve the second match of his totally ridiculous three match ban. Also missing will be the injured Steven Taylor, Sylvain Marveaux, Steve Harper, Sammy Ameobi and Nile Ranger. Cheick Tiote is still on international duty with the Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Newcastle United Likely Squad: Tim Krul (G), Rob Elliot (G), Danny Simpson, Ryan Taylor, Davide Santon, Shane Ferguson, James Perch, Fabricio Coloccini, Mike Williamson, Tamas Kadar, Gabriel Obertan, Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez, Dan Gosling, Mehdi Abeid, Haris Vuckic, Demba Ba, Papiss Demba Cisse, Leon Best, Shola Ameobi, Peter Lovenkrands.
Aston Villa Team News
Villa will give a late fitness check to striker Gabriel Agbonlahor, who missed the QPR game with hamstring and back injuries. Other “old boys” of note are Charles N’Zogbia and Stephen Ireland. As we learned in midweek, Habib Beye has now left the club.
Aston Villa Likely Squad: Shay Given (G), Bradley Guzan (G), Alan Hutton, Eric Lichaj, James Collins, Carlos Cuellar, Richard Dunne, Stephen Warnock, Nathan Baker, Barry Bannan, Ciaran Clark, Stilian Petrov, Stephen Ireland, Marc Albrighton, Darren Bent, Robbie Keane, Gabriel Agbonlahor (?), Emile Heskey, Charles N’Zogbia, Andreas Weimann, Andy Marshall, Daniel Johnson, Gary Gardner, Enda Stevens.
What The Managers Are Saying
Alan Pardew: “They [Ba and Cisse] will make an impact tomorrow. Whether we start with Demba and Cisse, or one of them, they are going to have an impact in this game – 100%. They have already lifted the training ground, so I am looking forward to seeing what happens tomorrow.”
“They are both slightly tired because they had a long trip, but they trained well. “Some of our players are tired too, though. That was a tough game at Blackburn.I need to look at training to see who I am going to play.”
“Demba coming back, for his character and the quality he brings, is a massive thing – forget about Cisse for the moment.”
Alex McLeish:“That’s what I want to do [climb the table]. I’ve got to trust the players on the pitch to do that for us and they are certainly within their capabilities. We’ve thrown a lot of points away already so I’m encouraged there is still improvement potential in this bunch. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag. There were definitely points that got away.
“There’s no doubt we should have more points. It certainly could have eased a few of the tensions. But where we are, we have just got to keep talking to the lads and working on it and setting targets to climb the table as high as we can.”
Can’t see anything but a home win for United here. Anything else would be disappointing in the extreme! We need to be wary of Darren Bent and Robbie Keane however, both of whom can score a goal from nothing on their day. What do you think? Comments welcome below.