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Preview: Newcastle United vs Aston Villa – prediction, team news, line-ups

Saturday’s Premier League action closes out at St James’ Park as Newcastle United and Aston Villa lock horns in a handsome-looking opening fixture.

After four consecutive finishes in the lower reaches, the Magpies produced arguably the club’s most impressive season in the 21st century in 2022/23. 

Inspired by the tactical ingenuity of Eddie Howe, Newcastle pipped Liverpool to a fourth-place finish last season, securing a coveted Champions League qualification for the first time in two decades. 

Howe came agonisingly close to adding a piece of silverware to Newcastle’s trophy cabinet that has been collecting the dust since 1969, only to see his side collapse in the League Cup final last February.

Despite failing to arrest their five-decade title drought, the Tyneside giants can be proud of last season’s achievements, laying the foundation for a brighter future. 

Speaking of the light at the end of the tunnel, Unai Emery’s appointment as the new chief of staff at Villa Park midway through last season proved a potentially history-defining milestone for the Lions. 

While the Spaniard’s predecessor Steven Gerrard was on the verge of dragging Villa into another relegation conundrum, the ex-Sevilla manager steadied the ship and pointed it in the right direction. 

Emery turned a downtrodden side into European contenders, guiding the Birmingham outfit to their first European promotion in over a decade and renewing hope within the Villa faithful. 

Match Preview

Ambitions have skyrocketed at St James’ Park following an outstanding campaign, but Newcastle cannot afford to rest on their laurels if they’re to replicate last season’s success in 2023/24.

Villa’s visit to Tyne presents a perfect opportunity for the Magpies to pick up where they left off, as they’ve not lost a home game against the Lions since 2005 (W9, D6). 

Adding to the hosts’ confidence, St James’ Park only collapsed twice in 19 league matches last term (W11, D6), showing how talismanic Howe’s men can be at home. 

Much of the credit for Newcastle’s stellar home form goes to a water-tight backline that conceded a league second-low 14 home goals in 2022/23, keeping an eye-catching nine clean sheets.

Villa cannot be blamed for setting high targets for the upcoming campaign as they embark on their first European journey since 2010/11, all thanks to Emery’s tactical masterclass. 

However, they cannot let their return to prominence carry them away, especially considering their last season’s away performances left a lot to be desired. 

In addition to lamenting a negative Premier League record on hostile turf in 2022/23 (W6, D5, L8), the Lions finished with a -7 away goal difference after netting an average of 0.94 goals per league travel.

Scoring the opening goal could be a match-defining moment for Villa as they boasted a formidable record in last season’s Premier League action when breaking the deadlock (W17, D2, L3). 

Team News

Newcastle will be without Emil Krafth and Javier Manquillo in their season opener, while Howe still sweats over Joe Willock’s match fitness. 

But the Magpies’ summer additions, Sandro Tonali, Harvey Barnes and Tino Livramento, are expected to be in the matchday squad.

As for Villa, Alex Moreno, Emiliano Buendia, Kortney House and Jacob Ramsey are out with various physical problems. 

Visiting manager Emery hopes the newcomers, Youri Tielemans, Moussa Diaby and Pau Torres, can make a difference. 

Newcastle United potential starting line-up:

(4-3-3): Nick Pope; Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman, Fabian Schar, Dan Burn; Sandro Tonali, Bruno Guimaraes, Joelinton; Miguel Almiron, Alexander Isak, Harvey Barnes. 

Aston Villa potential starting line-up:

(3-4-2-1): Emiliano Martinez; Ezri Konsa, Pau Torres, Tyrone Mings; Matty Cash, Boubacar Kamara, Youri Tielemans, Lucas Digne; John McGinn, Moussa Diaby; Ollie Watkins.

We Say: Newcastle United 2-2 Aston Villa

Newcastle boss Howe has lost all four previous meetings with his Villa counterpart Emery by a combined score of 11-2, hence a slight dose of pessimism in the home camp. 

But the Magpies can always count on the typically raucous St James’ Park faithful to help them weather any storm, and we expect them to protect their fortress against this exciting Villa line-up.

Since both sides can pack a punch, as witnessed by their enthralling 3-3 pre-season draw in Philadelphia, a high-scoring event could be in store. 

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