A little over a year and a half ago, in October 2021, Newcastle United saw the bright light of the day after a dreadful, long desertic walk under the ownership of Mike Ashley.
Of course, the first step to take by the Saudi Arabia-backed board was easy: appoint the manager to lead the Magpies to the promised land. And it took little time to spot the preternatural candidate.
No, it was not Eddie Howe. It was a Spaniard from the north whose name was Unai Emery, he of Arsenal lore. You know how the story went, and where both Newcastle and Emery ended.
It is funny, though, considering where Newcastle were back then (trying to avoid getting relegated) and where they are now. And what makes it funnier is that Aston Villa, before and after appointing Emery, find themselves in a very similar situation with the Villans trying to make it to the top six in the freaking Premier League.
Both the Magpies and the Villans had a strong-but-misused roster when Howe and Emery were hired. Six of the players that put five goals past West Ham last midweek for Newcastle were already in Tyneside when Howe arrived. The same happened to Emery, who has found better and more productive players in the likes of Tyrone Mings rather than the über-signings of Coutinho or Lucas Digne.
Is this weekend’s game a glimpse into the future of the Big Six and the Premier League as a whole? Probably, not quite so.
Newcastle are trying to clinch a top-four finish. Aston Villa should make it to one of the three continental competitions if they can keep up their current run of form.
But let’s be realistic: Liverpool sit in eighth place. Chelsea is in 11th. Tottenham and Man Red are more than ten points off second-place Man City, and more than 15 from league-leading Arsenal. The Gunners have already put a 20-point distance between them and the Spurs, and are 26 points clear of Aston Villa.
Let’s hope our superheroes can keep their streak going and win their sixth consecutive game and their third straight on the road before returning to St James’ Park to host Tottenham in a bit more than a week. Marching on.
Howe took to the microphones and addressed the most pressing questions by the media on Friday, ahead of the matchup against Aston Villa at Villa Park scheduled for Saturday, April 15th.
You can read everything Howe had to say here, as part of our pre-match coverage.
FotMob.com predictions at the upcoming Starting XIs from the Magpies and the Villans are in, so let’s go through what could be coming from Newcastle’s Eddie Howe.
- Not Available: Krafth (knee), Almiron (thigh), Saint-Maximin (hamstring)
- Doubtful: —
- After missing last weekend’s game against Brentford with a last-minute hammy injury, Allan Saint-Maximin is now expected to be out for a week or two on top of that. Out-of-the-blue injury, but at least Howe said he’s not worried about it being too bad.
- Another promising update by the gaffer: Miguel Almiron is close to returning. That said, he was expected to be back no sooner than the end of this month, so we have to assume he won’t be available and fully fit until Apr. 27 (vs. Everton) at the earliest.
- With no Miggy and no Saint-Maximin, and considering Jacob Murphy's supremely great form of late, odds are nothing changes on the wings with Joelinton on the left and Murphy on the right wing.
- Howe was asked about the Isak-Wilson conundrum and he didn’t really offer a solid clue about whether or not they will start the game against Aston Villa together. That would mean a tactical change and removing (most probably) one midfielder from the trio of Bruno, Sean Longstaff, and Joe Willock. Not seeing that happening, let alone against a hella strong and in-form squad like the Villan.
- Whoever starts up front, I’d be pleased. That feels arrogant, maybe, but considering how absolutely unplayable both Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak have been, that’s as true as it gets. Give me Isak starting and Wilson coming off the pine in the second half. It’s worked wonders and Wilson bites when getting into the pitch from the bench.
- Anthony Gordon was subbed in, then subbed off the pitch against Brentford, and he was visibly upset with that and angry about Howe’s decision. Gordon is a young lad, and we know his antics from his days at Everton, but Howe said on Friday that he has no issue with the kid so he will make the pitch from the bench once more today. Gotta keep putting on minutes as we inch closer to the final games of the season so he gets more and more EPL experience.
- The Pope stays on goal. The Fantastic Four do so in the D-line. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
CHN Predicted Lineup
DEF Trippier - Schar - Botman - Burn
MID Longstaff - Bruno - Willock
WNG Murphy - Joelinton
Aston Villa XI
- Date: Saturday, April 15th
- Kick-off: 12:30 BST / 7:30 EST
- Location: Villa Park, Birmingham (England)
- Broadcasts: fuboTV (CAN) — UNIVERSO, USA Network, UNIVERSO NOW, nbcsports.com, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo, NBC Sports App (USA) — BT Sport Ultimate, BT Sport 1, BT Sport App, BTSport.com (UK)
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Howay the Lads!