Aston Villa will host Newcastle United at Villa Park on Tuesday following the qualification of the Magpies for the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday after they dealt the Londoners a 2-0 defeat on their own territory.
Unai Emery’s team is now where Newcastle was last season and hoped to be this year, sitting in the fourth position and trying to clinch a Champions League berth when all is said and done next May. Eddie Howe, on the other hand, has Newcastle looking at a potential slippage into the bottom half of the table with a loss this midweek, something that won’t help him retain his manager position if things keep going south for the Tyneside squad in the next few weeks and months.
Aston Villa is coming off a couple of goalless draws against Everton in the Premier League and most recently against Chelsea in the fourth round of the FA Cup with a replay scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 7. The Villans have been a bit shaky of late, sandwiching two victories (one in the league, one in the FA Cup) with three draws and a loss. winning only two of their last six matches—Emery’s boys have yet to win a Premier League game this calendar year.
However, Aston Villa has been extraordinary at hosting games, winning 16 of their last 17 EPL games at Villa Park.
Newcastle demolished Aston Villa beating them 5-1 in August but things have changed for the (very) worst since then. Another win against the Villans would mean pulling off a season sweep over Emery’s club for the first time in a decade, but considering the putrid run of results the Magpies have earned of late, getting a win this midweek is far from guaranteed.
Howe has lost four consecutive Premier League games and their last victory took place all the way back on Dec. 16 when they beat Fulham. Before that, you have to go even further back to Dec. 2 to find their prior dub, against Man Utd. Yikes.
The wins against Sunderland and Fulham this month, both letting NUFC advance to the fifth round of the FA Cup, were fantastic and definitely kept Newcastle’s season alive when it comes to the possibility of winning at trophy for the first time in ages, but what matters most is the Premier League so things must take a 180-degree turn as quickly as possible.
Howe will have to build a squad in the same vein as last weekend, when he fielded his best-XI out of pure necessity and a concerning lack of alternatives. Among those out for Tuesday’s clash at Aston Villa: Nick Pope, Harvey Barnes, Joelinton, Sandro Tonali, Elliot Anderson, Joe Willock, and Matt Targett. Miguel Almiron is ill—not sold (for now)—but might make a return later today if he’s feeling good enough.
Here are some of Howe’s Wisdom Nuggets, courtesy of NUFC.co.uk
On the fitness of Almiron and Lascelles...
“We hope Miggy will be with us. Jamaal, I’m not so sure about. It’s not a serious injury but I think it might be enough to keep him out of this game - it will be close. We certainly hope to have Miggy with us.”
On whether some of United’s other sidelined players are nearing a return...
“Harvey (Barnes) is getting closer. He’s probably the closest, along with Callum (Wilson).
“Then you go a little bit further back to Joe (Willock) and a bit further again to Elliot (Anderson), then we have a couple of others that are even further back. Harvey and Callum are probably the closest to returning to help us.”
On his side having to kick off successive away games at 7pm on Saturday and 8:15pm on Tuesday night...
“Both are strange. It does look like a lack of care for the supporters.
“When you consider the loyalty and passion Newcastle supporters show, you know there’s going to be a huge number that want to go to the game. We thank them for their support and sympathise about the travel arrangements.”
On the Magpies’ emphatic 5-1 win over Villa on the opening day of the season...
“It seems a long time ago. I think we were at our best from an attacking sense that day. We grew in confidence as the game went on and we scored some great goals.
“The squad looked healthy and we had options - it was a difficult team to pick. I think that showed what we’re capable of.”
On the significance of Saturday’s FA Cup win at Fulham...
“It was an important win for us. It wasn’t our best performance but it was important. Defensively, we looked resilient and solid.
“Hopefully it gives us a lot of confidence. I think you’ve seen an improved performance towards the end of the game, probably reflecting the scoreline and the fact we were winning - you saw a bit of freedom return.”
- Date: Tuesday, Jan. 30th
- Kick-off: 20:15 BST / 15:15 EST
- Location: Villa Park, Birmingham (England)