Two teams having very different seasons meet Monday when Newcastle United heads to Villa Park to face Aston Villa (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Steve Bruce will lead his fortuitous Newcastle side against his former side, one he nearly led to Premier League promotion. The Villans have been a fun watch this season, but have not seen performances turn into points.
Villa has lost three-straight league matches, albeit against strong sides Liverpool, Man City, and Wolves, and after this face Manchester United, Arsenal, and Leicester City.
Newcastle is unbeaten in three, turning a Wolves draw into wins over Bournemouth and West Ham.
The Magpies are up to 14th and sit closer to fifth than the drop zone, while Villa is just a point clear of the Bottom Three despite some impressive performances this season.
Aston Villa: Heaton, Targett, Mings, Konsa, Guilbert, Nakamba, Luiz, McGinn, Grealish, El Ghazi, Wesley.
Newcastle United: Dubravka; Willems, Fernandez, Schar, Dummett, Yedlin; Hayden, Shelvey; Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Joelinton.
What they’re saying
Villa boss Dean Smith on playmaker Jack Grealish: “The fact he hasn’t got called up, we’ve spoken at length about that. He can’t control that but what he can control is he can keep performing, making sure he keeps the pressure on the people who have to make them decisions. He’s ready. He’s one of the fittest lads there, always doing extras after training as well. He’s fit and ready.”
Newcastle’s Steve Bruce on electric, eccentric Allan Saint-Maximin: “He’s only 22 and he’s got more outfits than I’ve seen. He’s different and I’m sure at times he’s going to cause me a few problems. But in all of that, deep down, he’s a decent kid. He’s okay, a bit different, but we all have to manage these different individuals, and he’s certainly one. He likes an ear-ring. He gives me £100 every other day when he forgets to take it out! In that respect, I’ve got a few quid off him already. But he’s a good kid, he’s all right. The players like him. He’s daft, he’s off the wall and he’s likeable.”
A Villa win could seem like a decent bet, but so do goals. And the way Newcastle has defended is feast or famine this season. We’re gonna go for goals, with Grealish, Saint-Maximin, Wesley, and maybe even Miguel Almiron on the score sheet. 2-2.