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After offering what was clearly their best performance of the Premier League season so far, Newcastle will hope that their campaign has finally turned the corner and their win over Everton on Tuesday, is one that becomes a watershed moment.
While for Newcastle to put further daylight between themselves and the bottom three, they will need to get a result against Aston Villa on Sunday and with Steven Gerrard’s men blowing hot and cold in equal measures, there is certainly the opportunity for another positive result.
When looking at the Premier League odds before the weekend, this encounter is arguably one of the more difficult to call and even though Aston Villa will feel they have the better team on Sunday, they will undoubtedly be shaken by their collapse on Wednesday.
While a look at the odds for this game in particular, suggests it is one of those affairs that are almost akin to the toss of a coin and in fairness, there is very little to split the two teams before Sunday.
Which means although Villa will have the edge in terms of personnel, Newcastle will certainly have their tails up after their win over Everton and for that reason, I think a draw at odds 5/2 with bet365 is the safest best of all.
With all the teams at the bottom seemingly waking up from collective slumbers, Newcastle had to make sure that their own sluggishness did not continue and after getting the better of fellow strugglers Everton on Tuesday, the mood on Tyneside is now a lot different.
A mood that suggests that progress is finally starting to be made under Eddie Howe and with the Magpies’ Premier League relegation odds now also increasing, their current optimism is also being matched the bookmakers.
Because with all their January transfer business concluded, manager Howe now knows the personnel that will go into battle for him between now and the end of the season and if Tuesday’s win was anything to go by, his squad look ready for war.
A war that will be played out between now and May and after earning back-to-back league wins for the first team during this current season, Newcastle are beginning to look like a team that is transformed.
Admittedly that transformation has come from a rather low base and in fairness, the only way they could go is up. With that said though, the small steps that they were taking under their new management team, has been converted into giant leaps.
In terms of injuries and suspensions for the visit of Aston Villa, with Dan Burn currently suffering from a toe injury, his fitness will be assessed in the build up to Sunday’s encounter.
While if the former Brighton is ruled out, he will join an already lengthy list of weekend absentees.
If you were to analyse Aston Villa’s performance against Leeds on Wednesday from an attacking point of view, you could only be impressed by the way that they tore apart Marcelo Bielsa’s men.
While if you were to look at it from a defensive perspective, you could only shake your head at the fact that they went from 3-1 and cruising, to having to make do with a frustrating 3-3 draw at Villa Park.
Three points that quickly ended up becoming one and that performance was precisely Villa’s season in a microcosm - one that suggests that are impressive when going forward, but susceptible to leaks in defence.
Something that born winner Steven Gerrard will not be all that happy about and although a top-half finish is still a relatively achievable goal for the end of the season, there is still plenty of work to be done in the training ground.
With that said the arrival of Philippe Coutinho on loan from Barcelona has certainly been a positive and there is no doubt that he has settled quickly on his return to the cut and thrust of the Premier League.
In terms of injuries and suspensions for the trip to Newcastle, it looks like being more frustration for Leon Bailey and with the former Bayer Leverkusen winger still suffering from a thigh problem, he is unlikely to make the trip to Tyneside.
When it comes to the pairing of Newcastle and Aston Villa, these two sides are steeped in tradition and although they have both suffered relegations from the Premier League in recent times, they are certainly two of the biggest 20 teams in the country.
In terms of their overall head-to-head record, Newcastle have won on 71 occasions, Aston Villa 58 and there have been 39 draws
When it comes to St James’ Park, there is no doubt that it is a magnificent structure and although matters on the pitch have tense in recent times, their supporters still back the club in huge numbers.
With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted in England, it means there is no longer the need to show a Vaccine Passport before attending the ground. Which means, match tickets are the only item that is required to be produced at the time of writing.
With Newcastle now clicking into gear, they will want to hit the accelerator across the rest of the season and as was shown on Tuesday, their home form is going to be fundamental to any hopes of survival.
Which is why the cauldron of noise that was created in midweek, will have to be dialled into once more and if the Toon Army can make life difficult for Aston Villa, it will certainly play into the hands of the hosts.