After Wednesday’s three points away at Blackburn, Newcastle go in search of their 12th win of the season, when they face Aston Villa at St James’ Park on this afternoon.
After a somewhat unconvincing performance against relegation strugglers Rovers, many will be looking for a performance to go with all three points.
Since Wednesday’s match all sorts of quotes have been attributed to manager, Alan Pardew. Teamtalk.com claimed that Pardew and his Newcastle side were aiming for Champion’s League football. In reality what he had said was that Chelsea are only three points above, and that we should be trying to chase them down. The press do seem to continually print these nonsense articles. Of course Pardew is looking up, but then except for Roberto Mancini, every Premier League manager is. Below were a series of comments from fans of other clubs mocking Pardew’s ambition. It seems many are desperate for us to fail, and for us to come crashing down. It would be nice to prove them wrong.
Reading Mark Lawrenson’s predictions for the weekend (I don’t know why I bother), he said that Randy Lerner operates Villa in a manner that means they do not spend more than they earn. He spoke about it critically, and as a result seemed to think Villa couldn’t be considered a big club. To me, there are big similarities between Villa and ourselves. Both clubs have owners that won’t get many Christmas cards from fans and both have a fortune of around £1 Billion. Both teams have a passionate support and as stated, both have chosen to spend frugally, rather than splash out on big names (with the exception of Darren Bent). The main difference is where the money is being spent. Whilst Villa took the chance to give Robbie Keane the chance to run out for another one of his boyhood clubs, Newcastle seem to have spent their money altogether more sensibly.
Looking through Villa’s team, you would have to think that at least five or six of their players are on over £50k a week. Conversely, Newcastle have managed to cut the wage bill and spend what little funds available on quality players, that whilst perhaps unknown to the mainstream, have performed consistently better than well-known stars who demand big bucks. As a result, Villa have not fared so well as Newcastle this year, struggling for any kind of form and only managing six wins in the league all season. They have become somewhat draw specialists, picking up a solitary point a massive ten times so far. Winning four of their last five away games has pulled them away from trouble however, and it will be important not to underestimate a side stronger on their travels than at home this season.
For most Newcastle fans, the most interesting piece of team news will be as to whether Alan Pardew chooses to play Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse up front, with both having returned from African Cup of Nations duty on Thursday. With neither Ameobi nor Best showing their finest form during the absence of Ba, it seems that if he is available, he should play.
Pardew may however feel that this game comes too soon for Cisse. As we have seen before with the likes of Santon, and even Ben Arfa, Pardew seems to prefer to edge new players in slowly, rather than just throwing them in at the deep end and expecting an immediate performance. As a result, Cisse may only feature towards the end of Sunday’s match, if at all.
A win would potentially leave us sitting in 4th place, but more importantly, it would further improve our chances of a top seven finish. With Martin O’Neill’s lot on a fine run of form, it would appear that they are our most serious contenders for 7th place, should we fail to occupy the top 6 come May.
Predictions for today please?!