Premier League | Villa Park | Sat 23 Aug | 12:45pm
A clash of two crisis clubs waiting to happen. Again.
ASTON VILLA FORM
- Stoke 0-1 Villa (Prem)
- Villa 0-0 Parma (F)
- Walsall 0-1 Villa (F)
- Groningen 4-1 Villa (F)
- Chesterfield 3-1 Villa (F)
- Newcastle 0-2 Man City (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-0 Real Sociedad (F)
- Huddersfield 2-2 Newcastle (F)
- Schalke 1-3 Newcastle (F)
- Malaga 3-1 Newcastle (F)
New season, fresh optimism for Aston Villa, who started their campaign with an unexpected but not undeserved win at Stoke.
Andreas Weimann's only goal secured Villa’s first away win since New Year’s Day and made a mockery of the wide-held view that this will be another season of hopeless, ham-fisted woe.
That opening day win also represented Villa’s first clean sheet since last February and their success was built largely on the newfound defensive foundations provided by Alan Hutton, Ron Vlaar, Philippe Senderos and Aly Cissokho – a back four that clearly shouldn’t work but somehow did.
“I think we have a good mix now with the young ones and the more experienced ones,” said Hutton, recalled from Paul Lambert's 'Bomb Squad' for his first airing in two years. His boss was as ebullient as ever: “If they keep playing like that they will be fine,” he mumbled, via an interpreter.
But there’s the rub: if Villa keep playing like that. If. If.
Last season’s impressive opening-day win at Arsenal was followed up with LLL, including a 2-1 home defeat to Saturday's visitors Newcastle. So let’s not get too carried away just yet.
Newcastle themselves opened their season with an expected defeat at home to the champions – expected because it was their 11th straight defeat at the hands of Manchester City. The 2-0 defeat was also their eighth defeat in their last nine Premier League games, but the natives haven't yet reached the point of calling for Alan Pardew's head on a stick.
The performance was more than twice as good as the 4-0 defeat they opened last season with, away at Manchester City, and Newcastle's fans will accept that a team with nine new signings will take time to run in the same direction. They struggled to break down the champions, but most teams will, and they at least showed the sort of honest endeavour missing in the second half of last season.
However, the mood of the opening-day defeat was tempered by the respects being paid to the two Newcastle fans who lost their lives in flight MH17 last month, shot down over eastern Ukraine. Sunday’s game was no time for a noisy mutiny. Defeat to Villa, though, and the mood could turn ugly again.
Joe Cole is pushing hard for his debut but Saturday's game may come too soon for him, likewise for Jores Okore, while Christian Benteke remains out until October. The visitors are expected to give a debut to new signing Siem de Jong, but not the key trio of Cheick Tiote, Davide Santon and Papiss Cisse.
Player to watch: Remy Cabella (Newcastle)
Genuine thrills were in short supply for Newcastle in the opening-day defeat, but the French midfielder offered flashes of inspiration. With the most shots (3), most passes in the final third (14/18), most take-ons (4/7) and most chances created (2), the former Montpellier man showed signs of why Mr Pardew spanked 12 million Sports Direct pounds on him.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Newcastle 1-0 Villa (PL, Feb 14)
- Villa 1-2 Newcastle (PL, Sep 13)
- Villa 1-2 Newcastle (PL, Jan 13)
- Newcastle 1-1 Villa (PL, Sep 12)
- Newcastle 2-1 Villa (PL, Feb 12)
Despite having the sword of Damocles Randy Lerner hanging over his head, Lambert remains as chirpy as ever. "I thought there were massive performances," he beamed after the Stoke win. "It was an outstanding team display. Everyone played their part." He would have said more only he got wind of Ronald Koeman tapping up 'concrete' Ron Vlaar so exited in hot pursuit.
His opposite number, the incomparable Pardew, came through the game against Manchester City without once calling Manuel Pellegrini a c*nt, which is progress.
He was buoyed by the performance but left lamenting a lack of luck. “We didn’t get a break”, he chomped. “That’s what you need against the top teams. But we didn’t get a break, we didn’t get a ricochet.”
Despite sitting bottom of this new-born Premier League, the next two games could provide Newcastle and Pardew with some desperately needed forward momentum – both Villa away and Crystal Palace at home should be winnable. However, more intriguing than anything that occurs on the pitch on Saturday will be the subplot unfolding on the touchline, where we pray hard that Pards attempts to stick the nut on Roy Keane.
Facts and figures
- Aston Villa have scored exactly 1 goal in 6 of their last 7 Premier League games against Newcastle.
- Newcastle have lost each of their last 5 Premier League away games. They last lost 6 in a row in March 2008.
- Only 1 of Newcastle's 43 goals in 2013/14 was scored by an English player.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
There should be only one goal in it and we can't help but think it will be in Villa's favour. 2-1.