Saturday evening sees two fallen Premier League giants lock horns at Villa Park. Mark O'Haire previews the live Championship encounter between Aston Villa and Newcastle, where he likes the look of the visitors...
"Newcastle’s trends show a W4-D1-L3 return when the half-time oranges are dished out with the Toon then notching 10 second-half strikes and leaking just twice in the same period"
Aston Villa v Newcastle
Live on Sky Sports 1
It's been a frustrating start to life at Villa Park for Roberto Di Matteo. Despite a lavish summer spending spree and major overhaul in personnel, Aston Villa still appear to possess the same mental fragility that blighted the squad that were relegated from the Premier League.
The Villans have taken the lead in five of their eight but lost nine points from leading positions, taking just W1-D5-L2 from their opening eight Championship encounters. It's just one success in six since easing past an inept Rotherham outfit although the hosts are unbeaten on home soil (W1-D3-L0).
Di Matteo has a decision to make over whether to select Jack Grealish, whom remains the subject of a club investigation after a late-night party he allegedly attended last weekend. Aaron Tshibola can return but strikers Ross McCormack, Rudy Gestede and Nathan Baker all face late fitness tests.
After an initial pointless return from their first two second-tier fixtures, Newcastle slipped into gear to churn out five successive league triumphs before being deservedly turned by Wolves last weekend.
Rafa Benitez's boys gained revenge on the Black Country side in the EFL Cup in midweek and arrive at Villa Park having churned out three consecutive away day victories and shipping just a solitary strike in four road trips since demotion.
DeAndre Yedlin could remain at right-back for third-placed Toon as Vurnon Anita sits out the second of a three-game ban. But Newcastle have more than enough quality in their ranks to suggest they're capable of claiming a fourth away win on the spin.
Newcastle have been chalked up as 2.526/4 favourites to collect maximum points and should the Magpies showcase the same ruthless attitude as they displayed when hammering QPR 6-0 at Loftus Road 10 days ago, there'll only be one winner.
No side in the Championship this season has seen more different names on the scoresheet than the Toon (11) and the visitors are unbeaten in 10 (W5-D5-L0) showdowns with Villa. In fact, Newcastle have conceded just once in five trips to Villa Park (W2-D3-L0), including back-to-back clean sheets.
Five of the Villans' last six outings have ended all-square and there's a decent argument to be made for Di Matteo's men to have more points on the board. But with more than enough doubts over the hosts' ability to perform for the full 90 minutes, I'll happily oppose Villa 3.2011/5 here.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
The two clubs have together featured in just 3/8 (38%) of winning Over 2.5 Goals bets in Championship encounters since relegation and with the second-tier seeing exactly 50% of games producing two goals or fewer, there's little incentive to back a goal-heavy game at 2.285/4.
Villa have only twice notched more than a solitary strike this season and together the pair have churned out an impressive 7/16 (44%) of clean sheets. Under 2.5 Goals would be a preferred option to take but at 1.748/11, there's little value in backing a low-scoring duel.
We've already touched on Aston Villa's inability to hold onto leads with the hosts ahead (four) or level (four) at the interval across their opening eight games. However, Di Matteo's troops have gone on to lose the second-half in four of those matches as only three sides have conceded more goals after half-time.
In contrast, Newcastle's trends show a W4-D1-L3 return when the half-time oranges are dished out with the Toon then notching 10 second-half strikes and leaking just twice in the same period.
The stats suggest a small play on the Half-Time/Full-Time market so we'll have an interest in Aston Villa/Newcastle 6.205/1 and Draw/Newcastle 34.033/1 at tidy prices.
Back Newcastle to win 1pt 2.526/4
Back Draw/Newcastle 0.5pt at 6.205/1
Back Aston Villa/Newcastle 0.5pt at 34.0033/1