This fixture will forever leave a sour taste in the mouth for all Newcastle fans after the 2008/9 campaign. The Magpies lost at Villa Park 1-0 on the final day of the season thanks to a Damien Duff own goal, and this led to relegation. On that day a rivalry between the two sides was born as the home fans laughed and cheered at the fact that Newcastle would be playing in the second tier in the following season. Since the return of Newcastle, there have been a lot of good matches between these sides with Newcastle smashing Villa 6-0 on one occasion. In this particular fixture, there has been a draw and a win a piece in the last three seasons. Last season Newcastle ran out 2-1 winners.
Aston Villa have started the season in an impressive fashion considering their opening fixtures. After an impressive 3-1 victory away at Arsenal on the opening day, they have lost narrowly to both Liverpool and Chelsea. Paul Lambert would probably have taken that, especially as they have been playing brilliant football as well. They will be looking at this home match as one they should be winning as Newcastle haven’t been great in the opening weeks of the season.
So far this season, Newcastle have been very negative in their approach which has resulted in only one goal in the three opening games. They were very laboured in their last outing against Fulham. They managed to win but this was only due to a fabulous solo goal from Hatem Ben Arfa. The goal looked to have an energising effect on the team as they started to play with more cohesion as a result. The introduction of Loic Remy offered a link between the midfield and Cisse which the side has needed for a long time. If Newcastle play like they did in the final twenty minutes against Fulham then we will have a cracking game on our hands.
Since the last set of Premier League matches, the transfer window has closed so now we know the squad for every club for the remainder of the year. Aston Villa signed Czech striker Libor Kozac from Lazio. His biggest achievement to date was finishing as the Europa League top scorer last season with ten goals. He hasn’t been that prolific throughout his career where the league has been concerned as he only netted ten times in 58 league games for the Italian club. Meanwhile Newcastle didn’t make any new signings on deadline day, despite the squad badly needing new players.
Aston Villa’s match day squad against Arsenal cost less than the new Arsenal record signing Mesut Ozil. This shows that Villa’s current strategy is working extremely well as they are picking up decent players at a good price, with the ability to compete with the best sides in this division.
Newcastle only conceded less than three other sides last season (one of which was Villa), however they have started the season with two clean sheets from three games. It is becoming clear that work has been done with the back line over the summer to ensure the team ships less goals.
Fabian Delph has been very impressive for Villa in their opening three games. He really got in and around the Chelsea players during the 2-1 away loss at Stamford Bridge. During the match he was one of the stand out players on the pitch and if he continues that type of form, a World Cup place could be within his grasp. Along with Jose Canas and Aaron Ramsey, Delph has won possession back more times than anyone else in the league (28 times). Albeit Canas has managed it while playing less minutes. The former Leeds youngster has won possession every 9.64 minutes which is good considering the opposition he has had to deal with. Till now he hadn’t secured a starting berth for Villa since he joined in 2009 which makes his early season form even more impressive. He will play a crucial role on Saturday as he will be up against a Newcastle midfield including Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote and Moussa Sissoko who all bring different styles to the game.
For the away side, Hatem Ben Arfa will be crucial if they are to get anything from the game. Against Fulham, he was the only player who looked likely to breakthrough the Cottager’s defence which was proven late on as he scored a screamer to grab the three points. Newcastle will be relying on the Frenchman again on Saturday to create opportunities for himself and his team-mates. So far this season, he has taken the joint most amount of shots (10) along with Edin Dzeko yet he only has one goal to show for it. People may say that the mercurial winger needs to work on his decision making while with the ball as he often keeps it for so long, but that is all part of what makes him so special. If Remy makes his first start at Villa Park then we could see a brilliant performance from Ben Arfa as the two linked up well in the last twenty minutes of the Fulham game.
Nathan Baker could return for the home side after an ankle injury, while Charles N’Zogbia is still missing through injury. The new signing Kozac could be in line for his debut but is unlikely to start ahead of the Villa front three of Gabby Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann. The good performances from Jores Okore against Liverpool and Chelsea should see him keep his starting berth. The home side have a more settled squad than their opponents and have been luckier with injuries, so their side shouldn’t change too much from the team that took on Liverpool.
Mike Williamson, Gabriel Obertan and Jonas Gutierrez should all be available for selection after recent knocks. Cheick Tiote has missed the last two league games but he featured for the Ivory Coast during the International break so he could return to the starting eleven on Saturday in place of Vurnon Anita. Loic Remy should make his first start in a Newcastle shirt on the left of a front three. Another player who should start the game is Yohan Cabaye who reportedly went on strike after Arsenal made a bid for him. He did make an appearance off the bench against Fulham and he was booed, so he will want to get back on side with the fans with a good performance on Saturday. Steven Taylor is also available for selection after a three match ban but Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa is expected to keep his place.
As the home side, Villa go into the match as favourites. Pinnacle Sports have odds of 2.130 that Aston Villa will indeed win Saturday’s match. I think the draw offers great value at 3.490, whilst if you fancy Newcastle to get their first away win of the season, you can get odds of 3.790. As these two conceded the third (Villa) and fourth (Newcastle) most goals last season, you may fancy there will be more than 2.5 goals, the odds for this currently stand at 1.926.
My prediction would be 1-1.