Aston Villa host Newcastle United on Saturday at Villa Park (Watch live on NBCSN, 7:45 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra) as the Villans look to continue their good start to the season.
On the opening day of the campaign they beat Stoke City 1-0 away from home and after a few seasons embroiled in relegation battles at the wrong end of the table, is this the year Paul Lambert’s men finally exceed expectations?
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Newcastle lost their opener to Manchester City 2-0, but Alan Pardew saw some moments of promise from his side. New signings Remy Cabella and Daryl Janmaat looked at ease on their PL debuts and the Magpies will be confident of picking up their first points of the new campaign away at Villa Park. Newcastle will be hoping for a top half finish again this season, while Villa are hoping for the same. With U.S. national team ‘keeper Brad Guzan securing a shutout on the opening day, the former Chivas USA goalkeeper will now become the USA’s number one after Tim Howard stepped down from the USMNT for the next year.
In team news Aston Villa could see new signing Carlos Sanchez join the squad, while Joe Cole and Jores Okore will return from injury. Newcastle could hand a debut to new signing Siem de Jong, while loan signing Facundo Ferreyra could also feature.
What they’re saying
U.S. ‘keeper Brad Guzan on Villa’s solid defense: “It was a great win at the Britannia Stadium – and we had the added bonus of the clean sheet so it was a good day for everyone at the club. There’s a good confidence in our team. Each player has a big desire to not get beat one on one – in terms of blocking shots, winning balls in the air, winning tackles and winning second balls. When you create that atmosphere and have that in a team, good things will come from it.”
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew: “We face a Villa side which has just picked up an away win and in the Premier League. That is gold-dust, so they will be feeling fairly confident to turn us over at home and we have to make sure we are a really stiff opposition. They have good players – they still carry great players, and it will be a difficult game. But Villa Park is somewhere where we have played well and we have proved we can win there.”
Villa looked solid yet t unspectacular in their opening day win and with the likes of Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos at center back, they will be hard to break down. Newcastle forced the issue against Man City but lacked cutting edge up top. The Magpies will struggle to score this season and Villa’s pacey forward, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann, are always a threat. A narrow home win in this one.
It’s incredible that Karl Darlow is Newcastle United’s starting goalkeeper, let alone a member of the PL Team of the Week.
The 25-year-old Northampton-born backstop is the Magpies’ third-choice keeper, having arrived from Nottingham Forest last summer to learn under Tim Krul and Rob Elliot.
[ VIDEO: Leicester fans react to title ]
But injuries to both of his international superiors thrust Darlow into the spotlight, and it took him some time to acclimate to the Premier League.
He looked just fine in Newcastle’s potentially massive 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, stopping a penalty amongst several other stops as the Magpies moved out of the drop zone for the first time since February.
Premier League Team of the Week — Week 36
Goalkeeper: Karl Darlow (Newcastle United)
Defenders: Wes Morgan (Leicester City), Leighton Baines (Everton), Winston Reid (West Ham United)
Midfielders: Mark Noble (West Ham United), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United), Dusan Tadic (Southampton), Andros Townsend (Newcastle United)
Forwards: Troy Deeney (Watford), Sadio Mane (Southampton), Andre Ayew (Swansea City)
Claudio Ranieri is everyone’s favorite manager.
And not just because “Dilly-ding, dilly-dong” will be added to the English dictionary very soon.
The Italian boss, 64, has guided Leicester City to the 2015-16 Premier League title — the first top-flight trophy in their 132-year history — in just his first season in charge at the King Power Stadium.
[ VIDEO: Leicester players celebrate ]
He has guided the 5000-1 shots at the start of the season to an incredible title win. At the start of the campaign he was the favorite to be the first manager to be fired this season.
After spending four years at Chelsea from 2000-04 where he was ruthlessly sacked by Russian owner Roman Abramovich who didn’t believe he could win trophies, Ranieri has won the biggest one of them all in his first season back in England. Remarkable.
[ MORE: Latest Leicester news after PL win ]
The veteran boss has now won his first-ever league title in his long and distinguished managerial career against all the odds. He is, without doubt, the mastermind behind Leicester’s remarkable title win. There are calls for Ranieri to be knighted by the Queen of England and given what his team has achieved, why not?
Despite his obviously skill as a manager, he is also a genuinely nice bloke when it comes to interacting with fans and the media.
The video below looks at some of the most memorable moments this season from the lovable Italian.
When Joe Hart looks to his left, he might expect to see a Sadio Mane shot going past him.
That’s how lethal the Southampton attacker was this weekend, recording a hat trick in Saints’ 4-2 win over Manchester City.
[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]
Mane becomes the third Southampton player to snare Premier League Player of the Week honors this season, joining Graziano Pelle and Fraser Forster.
Just two more honors to go this PL season.
Premier League Players of the Week – Round 36
Week 1: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Week 2: Romelu Lukaku, Everton
Week 3: Callum Wilson, Bournemouth
Week 4: Bafetimbi Gomis, Swansea City
Week 5: Steven Naismith, Everton
Week 6: Anthony Martial, Manchester United
Week 7: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal
Week 8: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Week 9: Raheem Sterling, Manchester City
Week 10: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur
Week 11: Arouna Kone, Everton
Week 12: Jesse Lingard, Manchester United
Week 15: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Week 16: Ayoze Perez, Newcastle United
Week 17: Odion Ighalo, Watford
Week 19: Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City
Week 20: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland
Week 21: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland
Week 22: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Week 23: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur
Week 24: Fraser Forster, Southampton
Week 25: Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa
Week 26: Pedro, Chelsea
Week 27: Marcus Rashford, Manchester United
Week 28: Connor Wickham, Crystal Palace
Week 29: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Week 30: Graziano Pelle, Southampton
Week 31: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur
Week 32: Alex Iwobi, Arsenal
Week 33: Andy Carroll, West Ham United
Week 34: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Week 35: Eden Hazard, Chelsea
Week 36: Sadio Mane, Southampton
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini does not regret fielding a weakened side at Southampton over the weekend as he prepares for City’s Champions League semifinal at Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Pellegrini chose to rest many of his top players at St. Mary’s, including Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, and Vincent Kompany. City were smashed 4-2 in one of their worst performances of the season.
[ RECAP: Saints 4-2 Man City ]
Pellegrini defended his lineup decisions after the match, saying he is willing to risk results in the Premier League to reach the Champions League final.
We knew before the game it was a risk to put so many players without football against a difficult team but we have to take those risks. If we had played on Saturday we could put more players out. I was disappointed with the team. It’s my responsibility for the starting 11.
I would do exactly the same again because we have an important game.
We play for the final in the Champions League. We continue in the Premier League what we are going to do in the next two games to be in the top four so that was a risk but one we had to take.
While you would expect a drop-off when the likes of Aguero and de Bruyne are not on the pitch, City’s poor performance was much more than just a team selection issue. With Raheem Sterling ($75 million) and Wilfried Bony ($45 million) in the starting XI, it was 19-year-old academy product Kelechi Iheanacho who was one of the few players to show any type of effort against Saints.
Pellegrini may be overlooking the end of the Premier League season, but his side still needs points to secure a top-four spot and berth in the Champions League next year. City currently sit four points ahead of Manchester United, but United have a game in-hand.
[ MORE: Burnley become first Championship side to clinch PL promotion ]
City travel to Spain for the second leg of their Champions League semifinal matchup against Real Madrid on Wednesday. After settling for a 0-0 draw in the first leg, City must put the Southampton debacle behind them and turn things around before the one of the biggest matches in club history.