Whenever a manager comes up against his former club, you can bet your bottom dollar he will want his team on their ‘A’ game. It will be no different when Steve Bruce and his Newcastle side host Aston Villa at St James Park tonight.

I have watched on throughout the season as Newcastle fans have made it clear that they would love nothing more than to see the back of the former Villa boss. From an improving side under Rafa Benitez, they can only watch on as their side have somehow found themselves involved in a relegation battle.

In fact, it’s that bad for Newcastle, if results go against them this weekend, they could very well find themselves in the bottom three after the next round of Premier League games.

The one bright side for Newcastle is that Villa aren’t exactly in the same form they were pre-Christmas. Since the Covid outbreak, Villa seems to have lost their mojo and have become very unpredictable. Their recent defeat to Sheffield United highlighted this, despite domination they became predictable and failed to score.

Newcastle have picked up 15 of their 27 points so far this campaign at St James Park. They will look to make the most of set pieces and are happy to sit back and hit their opponents on the break. It isn’t pretty – we of all fans should know, its Steve Bruce football after all. And when the going gets tough, Bruce has a knack for getting a result when he needs it most, I just hope it isn’t at our expense.

TEAM NEWS

Despite reports earlier in the week suggesting otherwise, Jack Grealish will not travel to St James Park. Villa’s captain is back in training but has been unwell this week which has slowed up his return. It is still unclear how long it will be before he returns.

Slightly better news for Villa is that Matty Cash is in line for a return. The right-back has been impressive for Villa this season but has missed out recently through a hamstring injury. Anwar El Ghazi has also recovered from an infected toe and could feature.

El Ghazi could return against Newcastle

Newcastle have no fresh injury concerns but are still without Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron.

Defenders Federico Fernandez and Javier Manquillo are back in training and are available for selection.

THE OFFICIALS

Referee: Paul Tierney.

Assistants: Ian Hussin, Dan Cook. Fourth official: Andy Madley. VAR: Jarred Gillett. Assistant VAR: Timothy Wood.

DID YOU KNOW

An Aston Villa victory would mean their first Premier League double over Newcastle United since the 2004/05 season.

Aston Villa have kept fourteen clean sheets so far this campaign with only Manchester City able to better that stat (15). Eight of those clean sheets have come on their travels.

Newcastle have not lost against Aston Villa at St James Park in their last eleven meetings (W6, D5). A record that goes back to April 2005.

HOW TO FOLLOW

I CANNOT WATCH LIVE

Join fellow Villa supporters by discussing tonight’s game on our forum in our live match chat.

ON TV

Newcastle United v Aston Villa will be shown live in the UK on BT Sport.

PREDICTION

In theory, I would like to think we have enough about us to beat Newcastle at the moment. You could argue their best players are out, well so is ours but we should have enough to see it over the line. The problem is we are not in form. We are so unpredictable at the moment it is scary.

We are sitting on 40 points which should mean we can play the rest of the campaign with no pressure and see how far it takes us. Can the players step up though?

Newcastle 0-1 Aston Villa

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