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Preview: Aston Villa vs. Newcastle United

Sports Mole previews the Premier League encounter between already-relegated Aston Villa and Newcastle United.

The last Premier League fixture for at least a season will be played at Villa Park on Saturday afternoon.

While hosting Aston Villa's fate is already sealed and has been for some time, visiting Newcastle United are doing all that they can to ensure that they do not join them in the Championship next term.


Eric Black ahead of the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Bournemouth on April 9, 2016© Getty Images

Just when it seemed that Villa's season could not get any more miserable, they managed to plummet to new depths away at Watford last weekend.

The already-relegated Villans made the trip to Vicarage Road on the back of their captain Gabriel Agbonlahor stepping down following one too many nights on the town and two board members walking away from the club. If nothing else, surely they would be able to play with some freedom against the Hornets?

In fairness, the shackles did appear to have been loosened and it seemed that Villa were heading for their first victory since February 2 and their maiden away triumph since the opening day of the season.

However, Villa hit the self destruct button, shipping goals in the 90th and 93rd minutes as the hosts ran out 3-2 winners. To rub further salt in the wound, both goals were scored by Birmingham City-supporting Troy Deeney, who clearly enjoyed celebrating in front of the travelling supporters.

Now, it is back to Villa Park, which has been a toxic environment over recent weeks. Those that have attended home games roundly jeer, while paper planes often shower the playing surface in protest at the way that the club has been run.

The frustration is understandable when you consider that Villa have treated their fans to just two home wins all season. On top of that, just 14 goals have been scored, with a league-high 35 being shipped up the other end.

Recent form: LLLLLL


Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez dreams of Istanbul ahead of his side's Premier League meeting with Manchester City on April 19, 2016© Getty Images

When Norwich City's Martin Olsson rifled in a stoppage-time winner against Newcastle at Carrow Road in early April, the Magpies looked a doomed outfit.

That was followed by another defeat - this time away at Southampton - leaving Newcastle 19th in the table and some six points from safety. It was a result that extended the club's losing away form to nine matches, their longest run since 1977.

However, almost without warning, Rafael Benitez's impact on Tyneside has started to shine through, so much so that they travel to Villa outside of the relegation zone.

That is because home victories over Swansea City and Crystal Palace have sandwiched impressive draws with Manchester City and Liverpool. Just when they needed them, Benitez's men have collected eight points from a possible 12.

Despite those positive vibes, Newcastle could win at Villa and again in the curtain-faller at home to Tottenham Hotspur and still find themselves playing Championship football next term. That is down to the fact that bitter rivals Sunderland are only one point adrift and, potentially crucially, have a game in hand.

Villa may have been poor at home, but Newcastle have not exactly been ripping up many trees on their travels. There have been just two triumphs on the road, neither of which were recorded in 2016. Further misery comes in the shape of the goals against column (41) - no Premier League side has shipped more.

Recent form: LLWDDW

Team News

Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates scoring for Newcastle United on April 2, 2016© AFP

Summer signing Aleksandar Mitrovic has found himself on the Newcastle bench of late, but there have been suggestions that he will be recalled for this encounter.

That is likely to come at the expense of Papiss Cisse in what could be the only change that Benitez opts to make.

There has also been further speculation that full-back Daryl Janmaat will return to the squad from a hand problem.

As for Villa, experienced defender Micah Richards could come back into the fold.

Furthermore, Jack Grealish and Jordan Veretout may also come into the midfield, having been named as substitutes against Watford.

Villa possible starting lineup:
Bunn; Hutton, Richards, Clark, Lescott; Grealish, Veretout, Westwood, Gueye; Ayew, Gestede

Newcastle possible starting lineup:
Darlow; Anita, Mbemba, Lascelles, Dummett; Townsend, Tiote, Colback, Sissoko; Wijnaldum; Mitrovic

Head To Head

Much to the annoyance of the Toon Army, Villa collected one of their 16 points during their trip to St James' Park in December.

Fabricio Coloccini opened the scoring for Newcastle, but Jordan Ayew responded to earn the away side a 1-1 draw.

It was an encounter that saw Villa's unbeaten run against Newcastle extend to nine matches (six losses).

Their last win over the men in black and white stripes came in April 2011 when James Collins scored the only goal of the game.

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We say: Villa 1-2 Newcastle

There is no longer any pressure on Villa and their performances of late have reflected that. They might not be winning matches, but they are at least scoring some goals. Nevertheless, Newcastle look like they have started to take Benitez's demands on board and that should be enough to see them pick up three vital points.

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Jordan Ayew of Aston Villa looks on during the pre season friendly between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa at Molineux on July 28, 2015
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