Villa Park sets the stage for Tuesday’s mouth-watering Premier League showdown between Aston Villa and Newcastle United.
Unlike their visitors, Unai Emery’s side have featured in only one top-flight match in 2024, sharing the spoils with troubled Everton in a 0-0 draw a fortnight ago.
It was Villa’s first goalless stalemate in any competition since the Spanish manager assumed the reins in October 2022, but they followed it up with another tepid affair.
Chelsea held the Birmingham outfit to a scoreless draw in London to send this blockbuster fourth-round tie into a replay at Villa Park.
Newcastle avoided fixture compounding with a comfortable 2-0 win against Fulham on Sunday and will take on the winner of a lower-tier tie between Blackburn Rovers and Wrexham in the next round.
However, Eddie Howe’s future is still under scrutiny, with the Magpies proving terminally unable to deal with a long-standing injury crisis in the Premier League.
Following a 4-2 demolition against Liverpool at the turn of the new calendar year, Newcastle threw away a 2-1 half-time lead in a 3-2 home loss to Manchester City.
Back-to-back league defeats at the start of 2024 have plunged the Magpies into a mid-table scrap, leaving them a staggering 14 points behind fourth-placed Villa.
Villa were firmly in the title conversation, but after only winning once in their last four league outings (D2, L1), they’ve lost ground on table-topping Liverpool.
A five-point deficit is not unattainable, yet Emery’s charges must get into the win column against a Newcastle side they’ve defeated in their last four matches at home without conceding.
Villa’s formidable home form against the Magpies looks destined to continue, considering they’ve not lost a game at Villa Park since February 2023 (W16, D1).
Further confidence comes from the fact that Villa last conceded a Premier League goal against Newcastle in their home setting in 2013, shutting them out in all six subsequent duels in the Midlands.
Newcastle’s perennial struggles at Villa Park paint a bleak picture for Howe’s team despite their mini-revival outside St James’ Park in the build-up to this trip.
After going winless on eight consecutive travels across all competitions (D1, L7), they’ve emerged victorious on their last two, overcoming Sunderland and Fulham by 2+ goals ‘to nil.’
However, not since an 8-0 humbling of Sheffield United in late September had Newcastle won a Premier League fixture on the road, losing the last five by a combined score of 14-3.
With 11 points separating them from fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur at the start of this round, the Magpies can’t afford another sub-par away showing if they’re to fight for Europa League football.
In addition to long-term absentees Emiliano Buendia and Tyrone Mings, Villa will be without Jhon Duran and Bertrand Traore.
While the former picked up an injury against Everton, the latter is on international duty with Burkina Faso at the Africa Cup of Nations.
As for Newcastle, Nick Pope, Joelinton, Harvey Barnes, Matt Targett, Elliot Anderson and Joe Willock are still in the treatment room, while Sandro Tonali’s suspension is still far from over.
On a more positive note, Callum Wilson has an outside chance of making the squad after recovering from a calf problem, though he’s unlikely to start the game anyway.
Aston Villa potential starting line-up:
(4-4-2): Emiliano Martinez; Matty Cash, Clement Lenglet, Ezri Konsa, Alex Moreno; Youri Tielemans, Douglas Luiz, Boubacar Kamara, John McGinn; Leon Bailey, Ollie Watkins.
Newcastle United potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Martin Dubravka; Kieran Trippier, Fabian Schar, Sven Botman, Tino Livramento; Sean Longstaff, Bruno Guimaraes, Lewis Miley; Jacob Murphy, Alexander Isak, Anthony Gordon.
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