Aston Villa face Newcastle in a battle between two in-form Premier League teams. Villa are up to 6th place after winning 6 of their last 7 games and Newcastle have won 5 straight matches. Nine points separates the teams and both sides will be hoping to qualify for the Europa League and Champions League respectively. This is the Saturday lunchtime kick off time and should be a good watch.
Leon Bailey came off the field after 28 mins last week and is a major doubt for Aston Villa. This might force Unai Emery into a 4-4-2 formation with Jacob Ramsey and the in-form Bertrand Traore out on the wings. The likes of Matty Cash, Boubacar Kamar and Philippe Coutinho are still rated doubtful, although could make an appearance on the bench.
Newcastle attacking midfielder Miguel Almiron might make a surprise return to the squad after injury, but that would likely only be from the bench. Allan Saint Maximin is definitely ruled out for at least another 2 weeks. It’s likely that both Joelinton and Murphy will play on the wings, unless Anthony Gordon is favoured. Upfront, Alexander Isak is simply in brilliant form right now, so unless Eddie Howe wants to accommodate two strikers then Callum Wilson will have to remain benched.
Villa average 1.37 goals per game. Their xGA is 1.46 and their defence cannot usually be relied upon as much despite keeping a few clean sheets recently. That said, they only concede 11.90 shots per game and less than 4 SOT on average. They have not been the most free shooting team but things have definitely improved offensively since Unai Emery took over.
Cards have been quite high in Villa fixtures and overall, their games have contained 4.23 cards on average. It is noticeable the few corners they’ve obtained (less than 4 per game) compared to how many they’ve conceded (5.93). This can be accredited to the relatively narrow formations which both managers have employed this season, especially in the case of Steven Gerrard in the first half of the campaign.
Newcastle average 1.66 goals per game and just 0.72 against. Their xG and xGA figures are fairly closely correlated. The Toon have conceded less than 10 shots on average in each game which has really helped their impressive defensive record. Nick Pope has had an impressive campaign in goal but faced just 3.10 SOT per match.
The Tynesiders average a huge 6.83 corners per game and just 4.48 against. They have an excellent set piece taker in Kieran Trippier, so the Toon will regularly play for corners or free kicks. Cards have flown readily in their games, averaging 1.76 themselves and 2.14 against.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
Ollie Watkins has been in great form but surprisingly only averages 2.46 shots per 90. More than half of them have been on target though and he’s had great accuracy. Bertrand Traore averages a massive 5.16 shots but that is from more limited minutes.
He usually comes off the bench but is set to start here. Nevertheless, he will be confident. Both McGinn and Moreno usually try their luck at least once per game and upfront Emi Buendia has been in good form, averaging close to a couple of shots per 90 mins.
Alexander Isak averages 3.09 shots per 90 mins with an impressive 1.77 on target. The two likely starters out wide Joelinton and Murphy are both averaging around two shots per 90 mins but with mediocre accuracy at best.
Fabian Schar will try some attempts (1.53) and Bruno Guimaraes usually tries his luck at least once per match. Joe Willock is back to full fitness and is one to keep an eye on for shots (1.98)
Player Goals and Assists
Ollie Watkins leads the Villa scoring charts with 12 goals and he’s also weighed in with 5 assists. He’s been absolutely red-hot of late and definitely worth considering for an anytime scorer. The trio of Buendia, Bailey and Luiz have all contributed in this department as well, the key is catching one of them on a good day. Watkins is by far the most reliable option thanks to his dual threat and also excellent form.
Miguel Almiron leads Newcastle in the scoring charts but could be ruled out injured or benched at best. Alexander Isak has managed to muscle his way in as the starting striker and scored 8 times, which is quite impressive from just 63 mins average play.
Kieran Trippier has had an exceptional season and delivered 6 assists. Callim Wilson has scored 10 goals in all competitions but is likely to be benched. Joe Willock and Bruno Guimaraes are goalscoring and assisting threats from midfield.
Villa average 49.50% possession. This match is extremely difficult to predict who will have most of the ball and it could genuinely be 50/50.
The three players most likely to rack up the passes are centre backs Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa, along with Douglas Luiz. They all average around 50 passes per 90 mins, with Konza and Mings especially likely to last the full match.
Newcastle average 51% possession. Eddie Howe is the sort of manager who will adapt to different teams and situations. He has been gradually implementing a more ball-hungry style for the Toon but equally he’s happy to counter-attack when needed.
Four players who average close to, or above 50 passes per 90 mins are Kieran Trippier, Bruno Guimaraes, Fabien Schar and Sven Botman. Guimaraes especially is at the heart of the team and will readily get involved.
Aston City Cards and Fouls
Argentinian World Cup winner Emi Martinez is a man renowned for time wasting. He’s picked up 5 cards this season either for time wasting or dissent which is something to look out for.
Midfield duo Douglas Luiz and John McGinn will get stuck in and are probably the main candidates to pick up a card in the outfield.
The midfield duo of Bruno Guimaraes and Shaun Longstaff will be difficult matchups for Villa. Guimaraes is fouled 2.74 times per 90 mins, and he has a similar dribbling rate. Teams target him as the main man for Newcastle. Both Joelinton and Isak will also command attention.
The Brazilian Joelinton has a surprisingly high dribbling rate (3.38) and is very elusive. Isak also has high flair and skill and is becoming a real handful upfront for teams to deal with.
Match-Ups to watch
Douglas Luiz vs Shaun Longstaff
John McGinn vs Bruno Guimaraes
Tyrone Mings vs Alexander Isak
Newcastle United Cards and Fouls
Kieran Trippier is usually good for at least one foul per game. He is a clever and experienced operator who will ‘take one for the team’ if needed. Midfield is where a lot of the action is here, and Bruno Guimaraes averages 1.40 fouls per 90 mins.
The biggest card machine that Newcastle have is Joelinton though, who has amassed a huge 11 bookings this season. He also fouls on average 2.02 times per 90 mins. He drifts between the left wing and central areas so could matchup with several Villa players.
John McGinn is a canny operator and is fouled roughly twice per 90 mins. He is the sort of player who winds up the opposition and is often the beneficiary of some retaliation action on him. He, along with Douglas Luiz in midfield are going to be key targets for Newcastle.
Ezri Konsa is surprisingly fouled 1.70 times per 90 mins which feels quite high for a centre back, He may be able to win some cheap free kicks against someone like Joelinton who presses everywhere.
Buendia and Ramsey are probably the most skilful and elusive Villa players so must be watched carefully by Eddie Howe’s visitors.
Match-Ups to watch
Kieran Trippier vs Jacob Ramsey
Joelinton vs Ezri Konsa
Bruno Guimaraes vs John McGinn
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