The first away trip of the season will see United head South (like every away trip to be fair!) stopping off in the Midlands to play Aston Villa.
A 2-0 loss against Manchester City last weekend was probably an expected yet unwelcome start to the new season. However, despite a lack of attacking edge once more, the rest of the performance left me feeling buoyed and ticked my minimum required ‘100% effort’ box.
Aston Villa managed to scrape a narrow win at Stoke last weekend which is no mean achievement. It is however still early days for Paul Lambert’s side who have been tipped for another season of struggle. Faced with a want-away owner and starved of investment, Villa have finished in the bottom six for three successive seasons. Improvement is the order of the season at Villa Park this time around.
New signing Carlos Sanchez is in line to make his debut against Newcastle. Joe Cole and Jores Okore are fit after recent absences however Christian Benteke remains sidelined longer term while Libor Kozak remains out.
Siem De Jong has recovered from a calf problem and is likely to feature at Villa Park. Facundo Ferreyra is available for the first time after building up more fitness but Cheik Tiote remains absent through, ahem, injury. Hatem Ben Arfa remains excluded from first-team activities.
Looking further ahead, Papiss Cisse is making good progress and should be back in training in a couple of weeks but it’s not good news for Davide Santon who is now likely to be out until November at least with his knee injury.
United completed a league double over Villa last season for the first time since 1997/1998 and have a healthy recent record against Paul Lambert’s side. In fact since being relegated at Villa Park and subsequently gaining promotion the season after, United have won five and drawn two of the eight meetings home and away between the two sides.
Of 152 league and cup matches, Newcastle have won 67 compared to 52 wins for Aston Villa. That gives United a winning percentage of 44.08 with Villa winning 34.21% of the time.
Stats and facts…
Villa are attempting to win their opening two matches of a season for the first time in 15 years.
They have won just 15 of the last 57 home league games at Villa Park.
Newcastle have lost their last five away league games and eight of their last nine league outings.
I’m not too downbeat after last weekend. I thought we played well enough but 12 shots at goal with none on target kind of tells a story. We need to penetrate Villa and whilst they are no Manchester City they will want to start of their home campaign with a win and will make it difficult for us.
As I keep saying, it’s still early days in the season but we need something from this game. The longer things go on without a point or three on the board the tougher it gets. We’ve seen disastrous runs of form in recent years and another one would leave us playing catch up even if we are still in August. If Alan Pardew was serious about aiming for the Champions League (O want some of his drugs!) then these are the kind of games we need to win.
Howay the lads!
Date: Saturday, 23rd August, 2014
Venue: Villa Park