Newcastle United will face Aston Villa on Sunday at St. James' Park hoping to get their season back on track after a horrible start to 2014.
The Magpies are currently in their worst form of the season to put it mildly. The departure of Yohan Cabaye, the suspension of Loïc Rémy and significant injuries have all played a part.
The club were one of the Premier League’s best sides in November and December. Since the New Year, Newcastle have won just once in eight matches, scoring only four goals in that time.
On the positive side, Newcastle still holds down a strong position in the top half of the table. They are in ninth position, nine points ahead of Swansea City in tenth. However, a Europa League position looks unlikely at this point.
Newcastle’s opponents on Sunday, Aston Villa will surely be looking to take advantage of the home side’s poor form. Paul Lambert’s club is in 12th position, but only four points out of the relegation zone.
Injuries and Suspensions
When the players come out of the field on Sunday at St.James’ Park, it would have been 11 days since Newcastle United played a competitive match. As a result, the club will be well-rested and could expect to welcome back some prominent players from injuries.
Leading scorer Loïc Rémy will return to the line-up after serving a three-match suspension. The club failed to score in his absence. Mathieu Debuchy and Yoan Gouffran look to have overcome previous injuries and are expected to be in the line-up against Aston Villa as well.
Alan Pardew told SportMail this week that Cheik Tiote is back in training after missing two matches with a hamstring injury. He is battling to be fit in time for Sunday’s match. Newcastle conceded seven goals in the two matches the defensive midfielder did not play.
Their defensive unit could also receive a boost. Argentinian centre-back Fabricio Coloccini is expecting to return from a knee injury any day now.
Paul Lambert’s club is relatively healthy. French Midfielder Charles N’Zogbia is out long term with a calf injury. Danish defender Jores Okore will be out longer with a knee injury. While Czech forward Libor Kozák suffered a broken leg in January and is not expect to return against Newcastle either.
English winger Gabriel Agbonlahor returned from a foot injury in Aston Villa’s goal-less draw against Cardiff City and is expected to be in the starting line-up on Sunday.
Paul Lambert is unpredictable with his squad formations. However, barring any major development Christian Benteke should start up front for Aston Villa, likely in a 4-4-2 formation.
The Belgian international leads the club with seven goals, however he is still well off the pace of last season when he scored 19 league goals. The powerful striker still remains Villa’s most dangerous weapon and should cause Newcastle’s defense problems.
Benteke will be well supported by Gabriel Agbonlahor in either a second striker role or in a wide position. Paul Lambert’s squad spent part of their recent 12 day break training in warm-weather in Portugal which could mean that Villa will be in good condition mentally and physically.
Alan Pardew will, no doubt be encouraged by the return of Loïc Rémy. Newcastle has had the most success this season when they have played in a 4-4-2 with Shola Ameobi alongside Rémy. And with Yohan Cabaye now gone, Pardew is lacking a true midfielder creator which could mean that 4-4-2 is here to stay.
Aston Villa are currently going through a poor stretch as well, having won just once in their last six Premier League matches. The Magpies have failed to score in seven of their last eight Premier League matches. And they have not scored in their last four League matches at home.
But Newcastle have dominated Aston Villa head-to-head like no other Premier League club. They have not lost to Aston Villa in their last five matches, home and away. In addition, Newcastle have not lost to Villa at home in seven league matches. Aston Villa have not won at St.James’ Park since April 2005.
Newcastle will be lifted by the return of their key players. The Magpies get back on track with a solid win.
Newcastle United 2 – 0 Aston Villa