Both sides endured poor starts to the season with defeats in Gameweek One. Dean Smith’s Villans sunk to a 3-2 defeat to newly-promoted Watford, while the Magpies let the lead slip twice in their 4-2 loss against West Ham United. Both managers are expected to ring in the changes, so here are our predictions.
Aston Villa’s starting goalkeeper is sure to be Emiliano Martinez. The Argentine 'keeper enjoyed a barnstorming debut season at Villa Park and was voted Fan’s Player of the Season for last season. He has been given the number one shirt for this season and will start his 40th consecutive Premier League match for Villa.
With Martin Dubravka still out injured for Newcastle, Steve Bruce could again turn to Freddie Woodman to deputise in goal. The Under-20 World Cup winner has returned from a successful two-year spell on loan at Swansea City and finally made his Newcastle bow last week. Mark Gillespie is another option, but he has yet to play above League One in English football and is unlikely to be selected.
Despite struggling somewhat against Watford, Matty Cash should continue in Villa’s right back berth. Like Martinez, he arrived at Villa last season and enjoyed a successful first season in the top-flight. His rapid pace is much more suited to Smith’s positive style of football than the more defensively minded Frederic Guilbert, who remains out in the cold.
Newcastle’s right back will depend on the fitness of Jamaal Lascelles. The club captain returned to the bench last week after missing the final eight games of last season with a foot injury. If he is fit enough to start, then Emil Krafth could return to right back. Alternatively, Jacob Murphy could continue to deputise there. Bruce gave a time frame of a week for Lascelles to return to fitness, so he may be fit to play.
Yet again, Villa have a very settled defensive partnership. New captain Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa formed one of the tightest backlines in the league last season and one poor game won’t be enough to separate them. New arrival Axel Tuanzebe will likely start on the bench as he searches for a root into the team.
Steve Bruce is likely to continue with his favoured 5-3-2 formation for this game, with Krafth the most likely to be switched out. Federico Fernandez and former Villa star Ciaran Clark are settled now in the Newcastle backline, while the future of Fabian Schar is in doubt. Reports broke this week that the Magpies were looking to sell the Swiss international, so he may be left out again by Bruce.
Both sides also have very settled left backs. Villa’s Matt Targett was arguably their most consistent player last season as he collected the Players’ Player of the Season award. He had a shaky game against Watford but will likely keep his place. Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie has forced his way back into the team by switching to left back and is sure to continue there.
Aston Villa are light on options in midfield and will likely keep the same two-man midfield from last week. Marvelous Nakamba may be switched out for Douglas Luiz who returned to training this week following his Olympic gold medal, but Smith may prefer to continue resting him. John McGinn is a shoo-in for Villa following his goal against Watford, so he is in no danger of dropping out.
Newcastle are light on options in midfield, but they may look to make a change there. Jonjo Shelvey was substituted with 20 minutes to go against West Ham and put in a poor performance. Both Ryan Fraser and Sean Longstaff could replace Shelvey in the line-up, with Fraser being more likely. If both Schar and Lascelles continue on the bench, then Longstaff may be held back as an emergency defender, leaving the door open for Fraser. Isaac Hayden and Miguel Almiron should keep their places.
This is where we are likely to see most of Villa’s changes. Their forward line misfired badly last week and will surely see an overhaul. Anwar El Ghazi is most likely to be dropped following a poor display against Watford. A chaotic performance saw him slammed by Smith at half-time before being subbed off. Leon Bailey is likely to make his full debut in El Ghazi’s place following his fine assist on the opening day.
Ashley Young could also be dropped depending on the fitness of Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traore. Watkins had to miss the opener against Watford, but he may be back for this match. There are also unconfirmed reports that Traore could miss up to a month with a hamstring injury, allowing Young to keep his place. Emiliano Buendia should continue in attacking midfield.
Villa’s striking options again depend on the fitness of Watkins. If he is fit to play, then he and Danny Ings will surely start as a pair. If not, then Villa will keep to the 4-2-3-1 system they used last season. Villa will be hoping that Watkins is fit to start however as they missed his work rate at both ends of the pitch.
As for Newcastle, their strikers are almost certain to be Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin. Wilson is Newcastle’s main source of goals, though he has never scored against Villa. Saint-Maximin will be looking to exploit Villa’s lack of pace in defence by using his trademark trickery and bursting runs.
Predicted Aston Villa XI
Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Nakamba; Young, Buendia, Bailey, Ings
Predicted Newcastle United XI
Woodman; Murphy, Lascelles, Fernandez, Clark, Ritchie; Hayden, Fraser, Almiron; Wilson, Saint-Maximin