Newcastle United-Aston Villa Preview
Newcastle United will "keep plugging away" under Steve Bruce despite a dismal run of form heading into Saturday's Premier League meeting with Aston Villa.
The Magpies are winless in nine in all competitions, crashing out of both domestic cups while seeing their league season stall.
Bruce's side are in danger of being sucked into a relegation battle, with performances as concerning as results, but the head coach is optimistic Newcastle's fortunes will change.
"I think half the Premier League is in a relegation battle, is it not? There's only a few points between a few teams," he said. "We've been stuck, unfortunately, on 19 for a while now, but we always knew this was the most difficult part of the season in terms of the fixtures and how frequently they're coming and the problems we've got. We've got to keep plugging away at it and I'm sure it'll turn."
Newcastle have Allan Saint-Maximin back in training after his recovery from coronavirus, but Bruce intends to "box a bit careful" with the winger due to his lengthy lay-off.
"When we're in this run, the one person who can give you a little bit of creativity and that sparkle in your team is Allan, of course," Bruce said. "How crucial he has been to us. He's huge to us."
Villa are certain to be without a key man at Villa Park, with John McGinn suspended following his booking in the midweek defeat to Manchester City.
Manager Dean Smith was sent off for his protests following City's controversial opener and was no happier about the McGinn decision.
"Unfortunately, John McGinn's got a pathetic yellow card, which means he misses the Newcastle game now," Smith said. "I don't understand that decision. If he books Douglas Luiz for the tackle, not a problem, but delaying the restart? It was about half a second after the foul and we were making two subs. Again it looked like [the referee] couldn't wait to get that out."
Aston Villa – Douglas Luiz
With McGinn out and Conor Hourihane having just departed on loan, Smith has a big call to make in the middle of the midfield. Whether Marvelous Nakamba gets just his second league start of the season or Jacob Ramsey is named as a more attack-minded option, Villa will have to rely heavily on Douglas Luiz.
Newcastle United – Allan Saint-Maximin
If Saint-Maximin can play a part on Saturday, that would represent a huge boost to the misfiring Magpies. Star striker Callum Wilson has been starved of service of late, last scoring before Christmas. But Saint-Maximin's sole assist this season was for Wilson, while his only goal was laid on by Newcastle's leading scorer.
- Aston Villa have won just one of their past 12 Premier League games against Newcastle (D6 L5), although they are unbeaten in four against the Magpies (W1 D3), winning 2-0 in this exact fixture last season.
- Villa have scored at least three goals in three of their seven Premier League home games this season, as many as they had in their previous 62 at Villa Park before this term.
- Villa are looking to keep three consecutive home clean sheets within the same Premier League campaign for the first time since December 2012 under Paul Lambert.
- Newcastle are winless in seven Premier League games (D2 L5), losing their past three in a row. The Magpies have not lost four consecutive Premier League games since May 2018.
- Newcastle have lost their past six away games in all competitions - they last lost more consecutively away from home between December 2015 and April 2016 (10).
Updated January 21, 2021