Match Preview: Aston Villa vs. Newcastle

One week on from a disappointing 3-2 season-opening defeat at Watford, Aston Villa hope to kickstart their 2021/22 season on Saturday when they host Newcastle for Matchweek 2.

A slow start doomed Villa at Watford, and this week they’ll welcome to Birmingham a Newcastle side that scored inside the opening five minutes in an eventual 4-2 loss to West Ham on August 14.

Though a strong start in front of the Villa Park faithful is key, Villa need to bring a more rounded effort, in and out of possession, to Saturday’s contest. Poor pressing and a deep backline doomed the Villans in midfield, and costly giveaways stymied attacking build-ups.

Similar to Watford, Newcastle will line up with three in the back on Saturday. Villa afforded Watford’s back three too much time on the ball, allowing the Hornets to build from the back, and should be wary of making the same mistake against Newcastle’s similar setup.

The ever-dangerous Allan Saint-Maximin will also be of concern for Dean Smith’s side. The versatile attacker set up Callum Wilson’s fifth-minute goal vs. West Ham and was a terror all afternoon. Villa’s shell-shocked backline will have their hands full if it can’t, in tandem with the midfield, contain the Frenchman.

“Defensively, we have to make sure that we’re sound. We need to play with a lot better rest defending than we did last week. If we do that, we’ve got attacking players who can score goals.”

– Aston Villa manager Dean Smith

Villa, who should line up with four in the back, will look to overload the Newcastle midfield, with John McGinn likely to start alongside Jacob Ramsey and Marvelous Nakamba or Douglas Luiz. The midfield three will be tasked with finding attackers in the channels between the Newcastle central defenders.

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND – JULY 24: Aaron Ramsey of Aston Villa is challenged by Jacob Brown of Stoke City during the Pre-Season Friendly between Stoke City and Aston Villa at bet365 Stadium on July 24, 2021 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

Aston Villa went 1-1-0 against the Magpies in 2020/21, securing a 2-0 win at home on January 23 before settling for a 1-1 draw at St. James’ Park on March 12. Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traore, both expected to miss out this week, scored in the 2-0 victory.

As per SkySports, Villa have not lost in their last six Premier League meetings with Newcastle, going 2-4-0 in those fixtures.

Saturday’s match will be played in front of a packed Villa Park for the first time since Villa’s 3-2 loss to Spurs on February 16, 2020. The Premier League shut down a month later due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aston Villa vs. Newcastle Team News

Villa felt the absence of Watkins last week–perhaps more than the absence of Jack Grealish–both on and off the ball. We’ve been spoiled by Watkins’ work ethic, which shows up in his hold-up play and his relentless pressing of the ball out of possession. Villa were way off the mark in both of those areas at Watford and–with Watkins out and Newcastle expected to line up similarly–remain a concern this week.

Traore is also set to miss out after the winger suffered a hamstring injury last week. A late-game sub at Watford, Traore won a penalty in extra time that Danny Ings converted on. He’ll be out until after the international break later this month.

With Watkins out, Ings will lead the line again for Villa. He didn’t see nearly enough of the ball in his debut last week and will look to make more of an impact in open play vs. Newcastle. He’ll rely on Emi Buendia, expected to start on the right, and the midfield to find him in dangerous areas.

“We understand the quality that we’ve got with Danny Ings. He’s a top goalscorer in the Premier League and he was one that we wanted to get.”

– Dean Smith on Danny Ings

Bailey, who came in as a sub at Watford and assisted on McGinn’s 70th-minute goal, will likely be an impact substitute again this weekend. Smith said of Bailey: “I’m not sure he’s got enough minutes in at the moment (to start).”

Luiz joined training on Monday after winning the gold medal with Brazil at the Olympics and may be available. His ability on the ball would be welcome against a defensive Newcastle side. He or Nakamba will play deep in midfield alongside McGinn.

WATFORD, ENGLAND – AUGUST 14: Ismaila Sarr of Watford is challenged by Matt Targett of Aston Villa during the Premier League match between Watford and Aston Villa at Vicarage Road on August 14, 2021 in Watford, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

An abysmal first half for Matt Targett in the Watford match saw him replaced at halftime, but expect last season’s Players’ Player of the Season to retain his place in the backline.

For Newcastle, former Villa manager Steve Bruce has Joe Willock available after this recent move from Arsenal. Crucially, Jonjo Shelvey will miss out and leaves a sizeable hole in central midfield. Keepers Karl Darlow and Martin Dubravka also remain out.

Expect the Magpies to line up in their regular 3-5-2–sometimes a 5-3-2–with Sean Longstaff replacing Shelvey, and perhaps Willock will start in place of Miguel Almiron.

Wilson and Saint-Maximin offer the greatest threat to Aston Villa, especially on the counter-attack. Expect Villa to have the lion’s share of possession, and even though the backline needs to be higher this week, the foursome must be weary of Saint-Maximin’s pace to get in behind.

Aston Villa projected Starting XI: Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Douglas Luiz, McGinn, J. Ramsey; Buendia, Ings, El Ghazi

Newcastle projected Starting XI: Woodman; Fernandez, Lascelles, Clark; Murphy, S. Longstaff, Hayden, Ritchie; Willock; Wilson, Saint-Maximin

Date/time: Saturday, August 21 at 3:00 PM BST/10:00 AM EST

Ground: Villa Park

Referee: David Coote

TV/Streaming UK: None

TV/Streaming US: NBCSN

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