The relegation scrap is starting to heat up as Fulham continues to look like a vastly improved side while the “safe” teams seem to be showing signs of weakness. Brighton’s lack of ability has them sitting just behind Newcastle above the relegation zone as an uninspiring Newcastle United side only walked away from their match against West Brom with a draw. Steve Bruce publicly declared that he wants to pick up wins in these next two matches for Newcastle ahead of the International Break, and it’s certainly time for him to put up or shut up.
In fairness, Newcastle does have a decent chance of picking up points against a very rotated Villa side and a Brighton side who literally cannot seem to score goals at the moment. Villa enters this match “safe” with 40 points, and are currently battling an injury crisis that is leaving them without some of their key playmakers. A rotated side that has no reason to “try” is exactly what Newcastle needs right now as they are desperate to pick up a win. Those exact conditions are what led Fulham to pick up an unexpected 3 points against Liverpool. In that same vein, Aston Villa have not looked particularly inspiring over their last few matches. A loss to Leicester is not surprising, but losing to Sheffield is certainly a sign of weakness. When you couple that with 0-0 draws against Brighton and Wolves, Villa certainly look more vulnerable than they did at the beginning of the year
Last 5 Matches
West Brom 0-0 Newcastle
Newcastle 1-1 Wolves
Manchester United 3-1 Newcastle
Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle
Newcastle 3-2 Southampton
Aston Villa (
Aston Villa 0-0 Wolves
Sheffield United 1-0 Newcastle
Leeds 0-1 Aston Villa
Aston Villa 1-2 Leicester
Brighton 0-0 Aston Villa
Outside of their 3 most dangerous attackers Newcastle are pretty much fully fit. Federico Fernandez and Javi Manquillo should be available for this match. While, Fabian Schar, Callum Wilson, Miguel Almirón, and Allan Saint-Maximin are all still out injured.
Jack Grealish is going to be out for Villa once again after missing the last 5 matches. This is relevant news because in their last 5 matches Villa has only been able to walk away with one win and have not scored more than 1 goal in any of their matches. Matty Cash and Anwar El Ghazi will travel with the team after missing the last match with injuries. It is unclear whether or not either one of them will start, but there certainly is no pressure to play either one of them. There is an outside chance that Villa knocks on the door of European football, but they should feel that they can safely rotate against Newcastle and pick up at least a point. Kortney Hause and Wesley are also slated to miss the match for Villa due to injury.
It is clear that without their 3 best attackers there is a lack of invention going forward. For the current players, it might make sense for Newcastle to revert to a 4-4-2 with Dwight Gayle and Andy Carroll up top. Newcastle have true wingers in Jacob Murphy and Ryan Fraser, who are probably their best two players at crossing the ball and would look to swing in balls to Andy and Gayle. While the 4-4-2 diamond has been able to bring out the best in players like Almirón, Jopelinton, and ASM, many of the available attacking players have struggled in the new formation. Adaptability is going to be the only way Newcastle survive this injury scare, and this is the perfect opportunity to try something other than the 4-4-2 diamond. Fans are unfortunately not expecting a win, and the Brighton match is much more winnable in the eyes of many. This gives Newcastle an opportunity to experiment with a formation that likely will bring out the best in the only two players that might be able to provide goals for the club. With that comes the unfortunate news that likely Joe Willock would be dropped in order to make the 4-4-2 work. He shouldn’t be, but Bruce is obsessed with Jonjo Shelvey. In an ideal world, Willock would start in this formation alongside Hayden, but realistically that won’t happen.
For Villa, a formation change won’t be likely, and honestly, they are still going to be searching for an offensive spark while Grealish is out. That has been the issue for Villa during Grealish’s rise to stardom, as they at times seem overly reliant on Grealish alone. I would not expect either El Ghazi or Cash to be risked against Newcastle who look like a relegation side at the moment.
Willock gets dropped here to make way for a two-up top formation with Carroll and Gayle. Bruce was heavily criticized by fans and the media for not “starting a striker” in the 0-0 draw against West Brom. I think he counters that by starting his two most experienced strikers available. Fernandez and Manquillo return to the side after missing the last few matches. Manquillo’s absence has been felt the most out of any defender on the backline as Emil Krafth has looked absolutely horrible in his place. Murphy comes in for me as one of the only other dynamic attackers still available. I could see Bruce putting Hendrick at right mid, but Hendrick has been putrid since his return and deserves a trip back to the bench
Newcastle Projected XI (4-4-2): Dubravka; Manquillo, Fernandez, Lascelles, Lewis, Fraser, Shelvey, Hayden, Murphy, Carroll, Gayle.
I don’t think Villa will shift from the lineup they used against Wolves. Villa were able to generate a fair share of chances, and Ollie Watkins honestly should have scored. There is not much reason to shift from that formation, as it nearly worked against Wolves and Newcastle are just not as good as Wolves.
Aston Villa Projected XI (4-3-3): Martinez, Mohamady, Konsa, Mingsgs,Targett, McGinn, Luiz, Sanson, Traore, Trezeguet, Watkins
Newcastle dig in and come up with 1 goal to grind out a gritty 1-0 win.
Newcastle 1-0 Aston Villa