Newcastle could move further clear of the relegation zone with a win, but three points for Aston Villa would see them still at least five points from safety...
"Backing Newcastle is the only option that I can make a feasible argument for in the Match Odds market."
Newcastle v Aston Villa
Saturday 19th December, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports 1
What a difference a fortnight makes. Following a 5-1 drubbing at Crystal Palace Steve McClaren's position as Newcastle manager was tenuous at best. Back-to-back wins against high-flying Liverpool and Tottenham have turned that situation on its head and now a win against bottom-of-the-table Aston Villa will move the Magpies towards the heady heights of mid-table obscurity.
McClaren, though, insists that his team haven't turned the corner just yet and cites their inconsistencies throughout the season as reasoning for his beliefs.
One main positive is that goals are now coming from various sources. Georginio Wijnaldum has seven for the season, Ayoze Pérez has four and Aleksandar Mitrovic has three, while all three have scored in the last two games.
The Villans will look to Newcastle for some inspiration as to how quickly things can turn, but the reality is that this is already a hefty task for Rémi Garde and his players. Even a win here would see Villa at least five points from safety at the end of the weekend, while the worst case scenario would have them 11 points adrift at Christmas.
We all know the figures about teams being relegated when bottom at Christmas. I don't think we need statistics to tell us that it would be a mammoth task for Villa to overturn a double-figure points deficit. Which all means that this fixture is as close to a must-win as you get at this stage of the campaign.
With no team having scored fewer Premier League goals and only Bournemouth conceding more this season, it's not easy to pinpoint Villa's issues. Other than that they simply haven't been good enough in all departments, all season. To appoint a manager without experience in English football was always going to be a risk for a club battling relegation, and so far it's a gamble that hasn't paid off.
Two weeks ago backing Newcastle at odds of 2.0621/20 to beat any Premier League side would have been utter madness. I'm not entirely convinced that it's the most sensible of bets to take on here, but it's certainly the only one that I can make a feasible argument for in the Match Odds market.
Villa, winless in the Premier League since the opening day of the season, simply cannot be backed at odds of 4.03/1. While the draw, although carrying some appeal at odds of 3.613/5, should also be avoided in games involving a Newcastle side that are very much all or bust at present.
The upshot of it all is that although the home win is the only bet to be had here, the primary advice is to tread carefully with this inconsistent Newcastle side.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
A goalless draw with Manchester City in Remi Garde's first game in charge of Villa offered huge encouragement. The way they set up and executed the Frenchman's new ideas suggested that they'd have every chance of grinding out results when necessary and climbing up the table.
Just six weeks on and Garde is being forced to rip up those blueprints. Picking up points against the top teams and away from home isn't going to cut it anymore. Wins are now required from games such as this one.
Which is why I'm anticipating a game that produces goals and happy to take odds-against prices about there being more than 2.5. Again, not a bet to get overly excited about, but 2.111/10 on Over 2.5 Goals is worth a few quid at least.
Match Odds & Over/Under 2.5 Goals
The two main markets (above) offer a couple of bets that I quite fancy, but I'm not excited enough by either to have a big bet. So I'm going to combine both the selections to get bigger odds and have a smaller stakes bet.
Newcastle to win with Over 2.5 Goals scored in the match is a 3.39/4 chance and forms my only recommended bet of the game.
1point Back Newcastle/Over 2.5 Goals @ 3.39/4
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Jaymes Monte 2015/16 Season P/L
Staked: 79 pts
Returned: 81.32 pts
P/L: +2.32 pts