In-form Aston Villa host Eddie Howe’s high-flying Newcastle team in the early kick-off as part of this Saturday’s Premier League action, with the match one of seven that will be taking place on the day.
The Villains have been in exceptional form as of late, going unbeaten in their last seven matches and racking up four wins on the bounce in their last four outings. Their impressive form has seen them surge up the table and into 6th place currently, leaving them just six points behind Tottenham in 5th, who currently occupy the Europa League automatic qualification spot.
European football is an outside possibility if they can keep this up. But, Villa have tough fixtures for the remainder of this month, with their four remaining matches of April coming against sides currently in the top half of the table. And the first of those fixtures comes against Newcastle, who are currently three places ahead of Villa in third.
With the fine form that Newcastle have managed to sustain over the course of this season, the Magpies are in the thick of the battle for top four, and are close to a dream return to the Champions League. So with just eight matches left to go, Eddie Howe knows that his side will need as many points as possible from their remaining fixtures to achieve their goal.
When Aston Villa sacked Steven Gerrard in late October, they had just two league wins to their name and were only out of the relegation zone on goal difference. It was looking like it would be yet another long and problem-stricken season for the West Midlanders, with a relegation battle a distinct possibility. However, the appointment of Unai Emery changed all of that.
His first game in charge saw Villa triumph 3-1 over a Manchester United side that had won seven out of their last ten games in all competitions, before overseeing further wins against both Brighton and Tottenham. From the 17 league games he has taken charge of, Emery has seen his side emerge as the victors 11 times, suffering four defeats and drawing just twice. And it is Villa’s recent form that has contributed to that impressive statistic, picking up six of those wins in just their last seven matches - the only dent in that impressive recent record came in the form of a 1-1 draw with West Ham.
It means that Villa are now up to 6th after their most recent result, a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest, and European football is actually now a very realistic prospect for them. One slight criticism that has emerged is that despite Villa’s fantastic form, their results have all come against sides who are struggling with form issues themselves. So this weekend, can they continue their sparkling run of form but against tougher opposition and silence some of the critics?
Eddie Howe’s Newcastle side are that tougher opposition, with the Magpies possessing the division’s meanest defence (just 21 goals conceded) and a fairly impressive attacking frontline. With 48 goals scored, they are the league’s sixth-best scoring team, and they have showcased that by punishing opposing teams many times this season, with Howe’s men scoring at least three goals in a match on seven different occasions.
The Magpies are a very tough side to break down but are also very dangerous at the opposite end of the pitch, and Howe has turned his squad into one of well-drilled players who know their roles and have flourished in his set-up. And as a result of these performances, it looks very likely that Newcastle will be securing Champions League football for what would be the club’s first time since the early 2000s.
The Toon Army are just nine games away from achieving that dream. But they do have some tricky fixtures still to play, with games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and many of the relegation sides who are fighting for their lives still to come. It will not be smooth sailing, but their impressive performances over the course of this season stands them in good stead to achieve their goal. They have won five of their last six league matches coming into this clash, and will look to make it six wins in seven when they visit Villa Park on Saturday.
This is an incredibly tough match to call, because both sides are in such good form. It is tough to pick apart a clear-cut winner, with Aston Villa’s rampant form potentially meeting a roadblock in the defensive prowess of Newcastle. That is why we are going for a draw here, with the game priced at 12/1 to end in a 2-2 draw. The home side have been given 5/2 odds of emerging as the winners, while the visitors have been priced at 11/10 odds to leave with the three points.
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