Aston Villa take on Newcastle United under the lights on Friday evening as an inconsistent Villa side look to revitalise their form away from home. Since the beginning of the year, Dean Smith's men have struggled to find their feet, however, a good start to the season sees them ninth place, five points better off than last seasons final points tally.
As for Steve Bruce, he is under huge amounts of pressure with his side hovering just a point above the relegation zone with one win in the last five. With Fulham creeping up the table there continues to be disbelief among Newcastle supporters to if they can stay in the division with Bruce at the helm.
Villa will be without star captain Jack Grealish as he remained sidelined with a lower leg injury. The good news for Villa is that Matt Cash will travel with the team having trained this week and Anwar El Ghazi is back and in contention.
Newcastle are hampered with a number of injuries. Miguel Almirón, Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson have all been sidelined for a number of weeks. Javier Manquillo's recovery has sped up by "a week or two," reports Bruce while Federico Fernandez is back amongst the squad. Fabian Schar has also been ruled out for the rest of the season.
Newcastle: Dubravka, Dummett, Clark, Lascelles, Krafth, Hendrick, Shelvey, Hayden, Willock, Fraser, Joelinton.
Aston Villa: Martinez, Targett, Mings, Konsa, Elmohamady, Luiz, McGinn, Sanson, Traore, Watkins, El Ghazi.
Ones to watch
With Newcastle without Saint-Maximin and Wilson, Bruce will have to turn his attention to Ryan Fraser and January signing Joe Willock. Fraser, who partnered Joelinton, in Newcastle's last game, has an abundance of pace and will look to give ageing Ahmed Elmohamdy a run for his money. Willock has also injected fresh energy in the final third of the pitch.
Much like the home side, Villa are also without their talisman Grealish. However, they are here to prove a point and show they more than a one man team. Smith added a number of quality signings in the summer.
Striker Ollie Watkins is a tremendous hard worker and won't give Newcastle's back line a rest. Having signed in the summer from Brentford, the 25-year-old has already got 12 goals to his name and could have had more if it wasn't for VAR. Having not scored for a while he will want to be back in on the action. Maybe the best addition in the summer was goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez. The Argentine has kept Villa in a number of games this season pulling off several spectacular saves. The 28-year-old has kept 14 clean sheets this season, the second best in the league. Could he be on course for the golden glove?
A word from the manager's
When speaking to the media Bruce feels they can use the schedule to their advantage as they hope to pick up points at home: “We play first, so it would be great if we can go and get a result,” he said. “We know we’re capable of getting a result so we’ll try our utmost to try and post one if we can – then we’ll see what the others do over the weekend.”
Smith isn't underestimating United despite their recent struggles: “I’m very respectful of what Steve Bruce has done in the game and what he continues to do. “They will be dangerous, that’s for sure.”
Where to watch
The game will broadcast live on BT Sport. Kick-off is at 20:00.