Many media outlets will have this game penned as the Steve Bruce derby – the return of the former, disgruntled manager, coming back to prove a point to the nasty fans and the club who did so wrong by him (I hope the sarcasm came through!)
In actual fact, Steve Bruce should be an irrelevance in this fixture. This game is really about two clubs, who will both be in a relegation battle this season, trying to get an important 3 points.
Recent Form and Previous Meetings
Newcastle come into this game off the back of two vital victories, having beaten West Ham and Bournemouth in their last two fixtures. Villa on the other hand have endured a torrid run of fixtures and have lost three Premier League games in a row, albeit to three of the league’s top 5.
The last time these two sides met was in the Championship, on 20th February 2017. Newcastle were comfortable 2-0 winners, as Steve Bruce’s Villa didn’t turn up. The loss was compounded by a poor own goal from Henri Lansbury, much to the Newcastle fans’ delight.
The last time Villa beat Newcastle was all the way back in 2011, where a James Collins header was enough to give us all three points, in a very tight encounter. A 1-0 win would go down an absolute treat on Monday night!
Our view from across the dugout comes from popular Newcastle Twitter page NUFC 360 (@NUFC360 and newcastle360.com).
Q. So, I guess the first place to start is with Steve Bruce. He’s not particularly well liked by many Villa fans because of his poor footballing style and after constant digs by him, aimed our way. What are Newcastle fans’ views on him and his style of football?
I think most fans know he’s a cheap option for the owner and they’re betting on his ties to the club and the city to be enough to keep our heads above water. I personally don’t fancy him at all as he’s not a PL manager. His stats in the PL are horrendous and I don’t see why it’ll suddenly become better. But it’s a result driven game, so if he can do well enough, the board won’t move him on for whatever reason.
Q. You’re on a decent run of form at the minute, with back-to-back wins. To what do you attribute this recent upturn of form?
The front three are getting to grips with things, despite just having one goal between them. They create enough space for others to move forward to contribute. Bruce has gone back to Rafa’s formation/tactics and hasn’t looked back. But he is working on moving the wingbacks into more advanced positions, and it’s paid off.
Q. Despite the individual talent of your front three, Joelinton, Almiron and Saint-Maximin – the latter coming into his own in recent weeks – a lot of your goals have come from your defenders. Is that a concern for you?
To a degree, the last two games show that the front three are getting ever closer. We can only be happy that our defenders have contributed as much as they have so far, but we have to be firing more regularly from the front. In the long run, it’s a definite concern if they don’t.
Q. What area would you consider to be the biggest strength in your team and who will pose Villa the biggest threat?
Our CB position is well stocked and it seems no matter who you throw in there, they’ll perform. There’s good chemistry, good communication and a good mix of styles. Schar & Lejeune are our more ball playing CB’s, with Lascelles & Clark being more old fashioned and Fernandez a hybrid of them all. In terms of a threat, I think Saint-Maximin will be the biggest threat. Will he score though? He wants to, he’s close, but it remains to be seen.
Q. What formation do you think you’ll employ against us and what is your predicted starting lineup? Is there an area of weakness that Villa should look to exploit?
We’ll go 5-4-1 with wingbacks. I’m not too sure about Villa’s weaknesses if I’m honest. I just have to hope that our form is enough to trump your team. It comes down to who’s used the international break the best.
Q. In recent years there has been a strange rivalry between us. What is your personal opinion on Villa and how do you expect the match to go, including a score prediction?
There’s a rivarly there due to our last two relegations. And I have to say there’s a resentment towards Villa due to that. To the extent where I hope you go down. That put aside, you’ve spent a huge amount of money after your promotion and it hasn’t shown yet, it would be typical for us if you all of a sudden struck a vein of form. I’m going for a careful 2-1 win to United. It’ll be difficult, but our away fans will be bouncing and help the lads put you under pressure.
Whilst NUFC 360 see a Newcastle victory against a misfiring Villa side, I see things completely differently.
The probable return of Jack Grealish to the side should give us a huge boost and both the fans and players alike will be itching for the game to start, with the game being under the lights at a packed Villa Park.
I also think that Newcastle’s reliance on goals from the defence, coupled with their worrying lack of goals from the front-line may just play into Villa’s hands.
I think it will be a really tough game and it’s a match that both teams will be wanting to win. However, I think we will come through the test and will win the game 2-0, with goals from John McGinn and Wesley!
By Daniel Horton,