Newcastle look to keep up their fantastic form this season with victory over a rejuvenated Aston Villa at the Sports Direct Arena. The Magpies have won four out of their last six games, whereas Villa have only lost once in their last six.
Under Alan Pardew, Newcastle have developed superbly this season and have established themselves as genuine contenders for a European spot. The fifth-placed side are still looking for Champions League qualification and will be delighted with their progress so far this season. Newcastle see the return of Senegalese strike force Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse following their disappointing time at the African Cup of Nations. Ba has 15 goals already this season and Cisse is expected to make his debut in front of the Newcastle faithful. Midfielder Yohan Cabaye serves the second of his three-match suspension and Pardew is still without Cheick Tiote and Steven Taylor. The Magpies were lucky to beat Blackburn 2-0 in midweek, but Pardew will be delighted to get another victory under his belt.
Villa came back from 2-0 down against QPR in midweek to salvage a point, but many fans in the Midlands are unhappy with their side. Alex McLeish has been the subject of jeers this season, but the loan signing of Robbie Keane has proved to be extremely effective. Keane has been integral for McLeish’s side and helped them to a victory over Wolves, as well as the draw with QPR. On their travels, Villa have only lost two of their last 12 and have in-form striker Darren Bent, who has scored four in his last five games. Gabriel Agbonlahor is a major doubt with back and hamstring spasms, as well as winger Marc Albrighton with a thigh problem.
McLeish’s men are still in the bottom half of the table and will be haunted by their 6-0 thrashing against Newcastle at the Sports Direct Arena last season. A win for Villa will see them move back into the top half, but with Ba’s return and Cisse’s desperation to make an impression, Newcastle have a great forward line to worry Villa’s defence. Newcastle should pick up another three points in a good game in the North East and move level on points with Chelsea, who face Manchester United in Sunday’s teatime fixture.
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