Aston Villa vs Newcastle – Pre-game Assessment

While our Villans faced a most worrisome foe last week (a newly promoted team sporting last season’s best home record in the top four tiers of English football), this week the balance is in our favor!  Sure, we lost, but so did Newcastle (but in front of 50,000 of their own fans).  In doing so, they squandered two leads while the Villa played from behind and, even without our best striker, we made a game of it.

That was not good enough and, as Dean Smith noted, his team had not made the transition from a friendly to a competitive game mentality.  He all but guaranteed the opposite this Saturday with the energy and desire at their peak.

Of course, that can cause loss of composure, especially if they find themselves behind again.  If that happens at Villa Park, look for our claret and blues to be able to draw from what West Ham found last week, this Newcastle defense is very brittle.  Worse still for them, they are relying on a third-string goalkeeper (Freddie Woodman) with Martin Dubravka’s foot injury and Karl Darlow’s bout with COVID-19 being long-term concerns.  While West Ham’s four goals were well taken, at least three were shots that our Emi Martinez could have saved. 

On the other hand, Newcastle’s first goal was excellent, and we must accept that we are unlikely to shutout the Wilson, Saint-Maximin duo for the whole game.  That we were able to notch two goals against a strong Watford defense suggests that we can do at least the same against the Magpies.

This is a Newcastle team with few new faces and an expectation that they will, once more, be struggling to stay afloat.  Our Villa, on the other hand, are expected to continue to improve their standing, even without Grealish, knowing that the owners have the resources to make the necessary investments.

That is the kind of incentive that our Villans need – shape up or be replaced.  Perhaps Smith will give Targett a chance to redeem himself.  Maybe Luiz will be inserted to up the midfield energy level.  It’s also possible that Ollie will repeat his success of a year ago when he scored early and settled the team’s nerves after two successive losses.

Certainly, Buendia will perform better, and, with a full 90 minutes, Leon Bailey has too much skill and speed to come away empty.  It’s unfortunate that Traore will not be available, even from the bench, as he suffered a hamstring injury in a friendly game against Liverpool.

Of course, if McGinn does this again, we might not need the Burkina Faso international:

Last Meeting at Villa Park: Aston Villa, Newcastle 0 – Sat 23 Jan 2021, Referee: Simon Hooper

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