Newcastle are in an enviable position. Two wins in a row against Sky 6 clubs has given the club a week outside of the relegation zone, even if it's not a secure position. A loss tomorrow would turn eyes back over the collective shoulders of the club with Chelsea, Swansea and Norwich all with opportunities to haul the Toon right back down into the bog. A win, however would get Steve McClaren and his merry men within grasping distance of the unthinkable. If they do win a third in a row, the top of the table looms larger on the horizon and with the gap at 5 points becomes less of a fairy tale and more of an actual, tangible goal.
Aston Villa are not doing well. They have 6 points from 16 matches and are a full 6 points behind the makems in 19th. If Chelsea beat the makems and Villa win at Newcastle, that gap shrinks to 3 points and safety shrinks to 5 points, becoming less of a fairy tale and more of an actual, tangible goal. They are 19th in the form table and have 1 away point in 6 matches. In addition, they have not beaten Newcastle in the last eight meetings between the two clubs.
Why Newcastle should win
In their last match, Villa shipped two goals to Arsenal on the counter attack. This should be music to Steve McClaren's ears as if there is one thing that the club has excelled at (even over a period of years) it is counter attacking at speed. We must concede that we are no Arsenal, but when Moussa Sissoko and Gini Wijnaldum are playing with the confidence that they have for the majority of the last two matches, they aren't necessarily *that* far behind.
Whether McClaren sticks with the forward partnership of Siem de Jong and Papiss Cisse or changes things up by inserting Aleksandar Mitrovic or Ayoze Perez (or both), Newcastle have the players to trouble a Villa back line that has shipped nearly as many goals as their own leaky defense have done. Watching back over their last several results, when they're not getting beat on the counter, Villa have gaps in their central defense that will look incredibly familiar to Newcastle fans. They have also recently lost their starting LB Jordan Amavi to injury and are playing RB Leandro Bacuna as his replacement. It sets up very nicely for the Toon Army to continue marching triumphantly. Perhaps too nicely.
How Newcastle could fail
Steve McClaren has set out already this week and informed us that "the key word for everyone [this weekend] is patience". He is preparing the home fans that it could be late into the match before the players find a breakthrough goal.. There is no real problem with this in theory. There's no shame in having to work to break down a defense. The quote in and of itself, though, contains what could be the team's ultimate undoing. Patience. If that patience combines with a strictly counter-attacking plan, Newcastle could be ripe for the picking. Inviting Villa to run at a defense that has conceded 31 goals already this season is a recipe for disaster.
While the Newcastle center back pairing of Fabricio Coloccini and Chancel Mbemba has looked more solid of late, but Daryl Janmaat and Paul Dummett have looked vulnerable. Although he has not been starting many matches following his move from Barcelona, the 19 year-old showed as an extreme danger man when brought in late versus Arsenal. With speed and skills to spare (even if perhaps lacking the highest decision-making skills), the prospect of him running at Dummett at any point of the match is terrifying.
If Newcastle come out with fire and take the match to Villa – even if it doesn't pay off in goals initially – Newcastle could run out winners as they should do. If we sit back and let Remi Garde's men time and possession and let them gain confidence and "grow into the match", it could be a frustrating time for the home fans. Depending on just how comfortable we let them get, there is real potential for the pendulum which was swinging towards the positive side of the spectrum to swing back severely to the negative side. There is plenty riding on this match for everyone involved.