The FourFourTwo Preview: Newcastle vs Aston Villa

Premier League | St James' Park | Sun 23 Feb | 1:30pm

Billed as

Pardew’s chance to save his j- oh, wait. 

The lowdown

FFT should stop short in its premature assumptions. After all, the daily newspaper that suggested Sunday’s crunch clash against Aston Villa could be Pards’ last in charge has now been banned. Newcastle weren’t happy bunnies, issuing a strongly worded statement revealing their disgust on Tuesday.

NEWCASTLE FORM

  • Newcastle 0-4 Spurs (Prem)
  • Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle (Prem)
  • Newcastle 0-3 S'land (Prem)
  • Norwich 0-0 Newcastle (Prem)
  • West Ham 1-3 Newcastle (Prem)

ASTON VILLA FORM

  • Cardiff 0-0 Aston Villa (Prem)
  • Aston Villa 0-2 West Ham (Prem)
  • Everton 2-1 Aston Villa (Prem)
  • Aston Villa 4-3 WBA (Prem)
  • Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa (Prem)

In all seriousness, though, times are tough for the former West Ham man. Not only have Newcastle not won for a month, they’ve lost their last three (conceding 10) and scored in just one of their last eight league games. Add to that a third straight derby defeat to arch rivals Sunderland and the picture isn’t looking pretty at St James’ Park.

It seems harsh to overly criticise Pardew – after all, up until the turn of the year it was looking like a job very well done after last season’s flirtation with the drop. The Toon chief had his legs hacked from the knee down with the loss of Yohan Cabaye so late in January, while Loic Remy’s mindless three-game ban hasn’t helped.
 
Nonetheless, there’s discontent on Tyneside, and it looks like the buck will inevitably stop with the boss. Current form is abysmal; last time out the Magpies were decked 4-0 by Tottenham on their own patch. Poor old Geordie favourite Shola Ameobi doesn’t have a clue what’s going on while Mathieu Debuchy could soon be off too.
 
If there’s a crumb of comfort, though, it’s that this weekend’s visitors Aston Villa are often as threatening as a cuddly kitten in a blanket. Paul Lambert’s side are just as likely to follow a miserably performance with a terrific one, however, particularly away from home where their swashbuckling counter-attacks often come up trumps. If that fails, there’s always Christian Benteke’s head.
 
Too often it does fail, though. Villa never dominate games – indeed, only West Ham and Crystal Palace bemoan worse average possession this season – and too often they’re left reliant on their direct approach. It’ll keep them up, but the odd crucial win and smattering of draws won’t earn them many admirers either. 
 
Perhaps last week’s training camp in Portugal will warm the cockles of Villain hearts. Whatever the case, anything is better than the goalless draw served up at Cardiff. Is that too much to ask?

Team news

It gets a little better for Toon fans; Remy returns after his ban, while the Magpies could welcome back Cheick Tiote (hamstring), skipper Fabricio Coloccini and yes-he’s-still-there winger Gabriel Obertan (both knee). But poor Ryan Taylor (another crocked knee) is still out with Gael Bigirimana (ankle). 
 
For Villa, Jores Okore isn’t far from returning after knacking his knee back in September. The rest are all long-term absentees: Libor Kozak (leg), Chris Herd (hamstring) and Charles N’Zogbia (forgotten). 

Player to watch: Cheick Tiote (Newcastle)

Newcastle were overrun in midfield against Spurs, with the visitors’ Nabil Bentaleb and Etienne Capoue completing the game’s highest number of passes. Vurnon Anita was the Magpies’ most prolific distributor with 39 of his 52 attempts completed. That’s where Tiote comes in. The Ivorian might not contribute to attacks as often as he should, but his ball retention is usually strong and he often tops post-match passing charts. 
 
Even in the 3-0 defeat to Sunderland, his most recent appearance, the 27-year-old offered a relatively reliable outlet while others around him collapsed. He completed 52/62 efforts – not exceptional at 83% - but his tally surpassed the next player by 20, and he also made a game-high 11 ball recoveries in the centre of midfield. 
 
His return should allow Moussa Sissoko to displace Sammy Ameobi on the wing and Newcastle to take control. 

Cheick Tiote

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

  • Villa 1-2 N'castle (Prem, Sep 13)
  • Villa 1-2 N'castle (Prem, Jan 13)
  • N'castle 1-1 Villa (Prem, Sep 12)
  • N'castle 2-1 Villa (Prem, Feb 12)
  • Villa 1-1 N'castle (Prem, Sep 11)

The managers

Pardew doesn’t appear to be crumbling under the pressure just yet, which should resonate through to his struggling squad. The club’s midweek statement suggests they’re willing to stick by their manager in the short-term at least.
 
Villa boss Lambert is suffering no such troubles. The Scot’s approaches might not be aesthetically focused – why should they be? – but Villa’s current 12th-place standing is reflection of the hard-working, youthful team he has built. 
 
Forward Andreas Weimann has hailed his manager’s “unbelievable job” since taking the reins in June 2012, although on a sourer note Lambert has been forced to deny a row with defender Matthew Lowton.

Facts and figures

  • Both teams have scored in the last 5 meetings.
  • Newcastle have never lost 5 consecutive home games in the Premier League and have W2 D2 L0 when on 4 game losing streak at home previously.
  • 10 of Newcastle’s last 12 home matches against bottom-half teams have had at least 3 goals with three 2-1 wins in their last 7 such matches.
  • Newcastle have conceded in 10/11 home matches while both teams have scored in 8/10 Villa trips to middle-third teams.
  • 7 of Villa’s last 10 away matches against middle-third teams have had at least 4 goals.
    Best Bet: Both Teams To Score @ 17/20
    More FFT Stats Zone factsFind the best odds with Bet Butler

FourFourTwo prediction

A break will have done Newcastle good. They’ll be determined to end this barren spell, and with Coloccini, Tiote and Remy all returning their prospects look vastly brighter. 1-0.  

Newcastle vs Aston Villa LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone


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