It’s matchday 31 in the Premier League and the weekend is packed with loads of action as the teams head towards the business end of the league. Aston Villa host Champions League seeking Newcastle United in a game which sees the two most in form sides in the league go head-to-head at Villa Park. The two sides are both in contention to compete and fight for a place in Europe next season and it promises to be a nail-biting 90 minutes with both sides needing all 3 points to cement their place in the table and pursue their European ambitions.
The hosts have been in unreal form ever since Unai Emery took over the reigns at the club. No team in the league apart from Arsenal has won more points than Emery’s Villa since November last year as they have won 11 time since then and accumulated 35 points. The red hot form has seen them climb up the table from 16th place to 6th place and put them in a comfortable position to qualify for Europe next season. They are unbeaten in their last 5 outings in the league having won their last 4 games and a win here would see them reduce the gap to 5th place to just 3 points.
Newcastle United head into the game in 3rd place level on points with Manchester United but ahead on goal difference. The Magpies are touted to be a part of the English contingent to represent the league in the Champions League next season. Eddie Howe’s men have won each of their last 5 games and would need 6 more wins from the remaining 9 games to seal their place in the Champions League. They emerged 2-1 winners against Brentford last time out thanks to an own goal by the Bees keeper David Raya and another goal by Alexander Isak. The Magpies’ strikers have been bringing out the best in each other ever since the EFL cup final defeat in February and have contributed to 8 of the last 11 goals scored by their side in the last 5 games.
When & Where?
Date: 14th April 2023.
Time: 12:30 PM GMT.
Venue: Villa Park.
Referee: John Brooks.
Assistants: Matthew Wilkes, Mark Scholes.
Fourth official: Graham Scott.
VAR: Simon Hooper.
Assistant VAR: Adrian Holmes.
The Villains received a fresh injury blow as Leon Bailey had to be substituted last time out after picking up a hamstring injury which makes the Jamaican unavailable for the game. He joins the trio of Matty Cash, Philippe Coutinho and Boubacar Kamara in the treatment room as they are also expected to miss out. Emery will reinstate substitute-hero Bertrand Traore back into the starting XI after the winger’s two goals in the last two games off the bench.
Eddie Howe will also be without his first-choice winger Allan Saint-Maximin as the Frenchman is expected to be on the sidelines for a lengthy spell after picking up a hamstring injury. Long term absentee Emile Krafth will be the other player unavailable for the Magpies as the defender still recovers from his injury. Miguel Almiron is back fully fit and the return of the Paraguayan is certainly good news as he will replace the injured Saint-Maximin in the starting XI.
It will be an interesting tactical battle between two sides who have been the surprise package this season as they both push to finish in the European places. Unai Emery’s men will line up in their usual 4-2-3-1 system which has been one of the key reasons behind their instant success ever since the Spaniard arrived back in the Premier League.
The midfield battle in this one could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of this match as both the teams boast of talented midfielders who have been anchoring their respective side in the middle of the park. John McGinn, Douglaz Luiz and Jacob Ramsey will be up against the Magpies’ trio of Joelinton, Bruno Guimares and Joe Willock. Both the teams play with a similar system and it will be an interesting watch to find out who comes out on top on Saturday.
Emery’s men have scored in each of their last 11 Premier League outings and are showing no signs of stopping. The Newcastle defence will have to put on a solid defensive performance to nullify the attacking threat of the Villains especially their talisman Ollie Watkins. Newcastle on the other hand also have Alexander Isak racking up the goals for his side as he has scored 4 times in their last 4 away trips and the Villa defence will have to marshal the Swedish marksman to bring an end to his blistering away form.
The Englishman now has scored 12 goals this season and is on course to better his goal-scoring tally of 14 goals which remains his personal best in the league. The 27-year-old is averaging a non-penalty goals of 0.42 and non-penalty xG of 0.41 so far and his intelligent off the ball runs and precise finishing has played a major role in his side’s win streak.
After a slow start to life in the league, the Swedish striker has found his groove and is looking worth the 60 million euros Newcastle had to fork out to sign him. Injuries kept Isak out of the first team for most parts of this season yet the 23-year-old has managed to score 8 goals in 13 appearances so far this season. His ability to hold up play up top and provide Eddie Howe with an option to use him as a target man has transformed Newcastle as they are now able to build their play directly from the back. Isak is also complementing his striking partner Callum Wilson well and the duo are leading the Magpies’ Champions League charge.
Aston Villa lineup vs Newcastle United: Martinez, Young, Konsa, Mings, Moreno, McGinn, Luiz, Ramsey, Buendia, Traore, Watkins.
Newcastle United lineup vs Aston Villa: Pope, Trippier, Botman, Schar, Burn, Guimares, Willock, Joelinton, Almiron, Isak, Murphy.