Newcastle take on Aston Villa at St James’ Park this weekend looking to arrest a run of home form which has seen us lose the last four matches played in Tyneside.
The build-up to the game has seen the managers of each side clash regarding comments made by Paul Lambert who made reference to our crowd and insisted his team would start on the front foot in an attempt to turn us against our own side. Alan Pardew said he was surprised by those comments and that Lambert might regret that by the end of the game. I’m not quite sure if Pardew has been watching the same games everyone else has been watching recently?
You have to look at it and say that Lambert has a point. We’ve been on the end of too many defeats at St James’ Park recently and the atmosphere amongst fans is borderline toxic at the moment although admittedly results are just one of many factors regarding feelings right now. What Lambert said is no different to what other managers try and achieve at St James’ Park, the only difference is that Lambert had the nuts to say it publicly.
The game should be nigh on a full house with just over 50,000 tickets being sold for the game. It won’t sell out completely because Aston Villa have failed to fill their away allocation but it will still be a good attendance and shows that any stay-away notion has remained exactly that. For now at least…
Loic Remy returns after sitting out the last three games through suspension. Fabricio Coloccini is also available after injuring his knee on New Year’s Day whilst Cheik Tiote returns after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury. That’s three key players returning which will undoubtedly give Alan Pardew a boost.
Andreas Weimann and Karim El Ahmadi are fit again and could be recalled by Paul Lambert. However Jores Okore, who is making good progress after rupturing a cruciate knee ligament, is still a few weeks away from a return.
United go looking for a first league double over the Villains since the 1997-1998 season after registering a win at Villa Park back in September courtesy of goals by Hatem Ben Arfa and Yoan Gouffran.
We’ve not lost to Villa at St James’ Park since that infamous game back in April 2005. It was a 3-0 home loss that day with United ending up with just eight men on the pitch.
Generally speaking we’ve had the better of Aston Villa and a quick look at our history shows that we’ve won more games against the Midlanders than we have against any other side. Of 156 meetings between the two clubs, United have won 68, lost 55 and drawn 33 times.
Unsurprisingly we’ve also been stronger at St James’ Park clocking up 47 wins compared to just 15 for Aston Villa with a further 15 draws adding up to 77 meetings on Tyneside in total.
Stats and facts…
Newcastle have played 370 minutes since scoring their last goal at home – the longest barren run since a 686-minute drought in 2007.
Only Fulham (17) have conceded more league goals in 2014 than Newcastle (14).
Aston Villa have taken 17 points from 13 away league games – the best record of any of the bottom 11 clubs.
Villa have picked up 10 points from losing positions so far this season – the third best record in the division.
Put simply something has to give. Whether that is our dismal recent form or something deeper within the club I don’t know but something has to change.
When you look at the away record for Aston Villa and combine it with our home struggles you can see why Paul Lambert has said what he did. Why shouldn’t he be confident? After all we are a shambles right now.
One more win would probably be enough to call us safe if we aren’t already, and that is all that is required by the club at the end of the day. A season filled with promise and expectation warranted through a good start has faded away and now all we are left with is the wait until the summer when we can see what ham-fisted attempt the club makes at trying to rebuild.
And if I feel like that then why should the players feel any different?
Howay the lads!
Date: Sunday, 23rd February, 2014
Time: 1:30pm – Live on Sky Sports
Venue: St James’ Park