Newcastle v Aston Villa
Live on BT Sport 1
Bruce faces test to keep Newcastle in top flight
It seems a crisis is never far away from Newcastle United and Steve Bruce has been fighting an uphill battle all season. The club's fans have grown increasingly frustrated at the limitations of this team and the lack of attacking verve. Newcastle were solid enough during the opening months, but their current form is poor and the side are only one point and two places above the Premier League relegation zone.
Two victories since the middle of December is a worrying return and the improvement from Fulham has seen their advantage over the bottom three gradually erode. The Magpies have failed to win any of their last four matches and come into this game off the back of successive draws. Jamaal Lascelles scored in the 1-1 draw at home to Wolves before Newcastle were relieved to hold out for a dire goalless stalemate at 19th-placed West Brom on Sunday.
Grealish a big miss for Villa
Aston Villa have been one of the biggest improvers this season, with a team that only just fended off relegation developing into a side consistently inside the top ten throughout this campaign. Ninth-placed Villa have been impressively managed by Dean Smith and he deserves plenty of credit even his team look likely to miss out on a European spot.
Villa's captain Jack Grealish has been their inspiration and it is no coincidence their results have dipped during the midfielder's recent absence due to a leg injury. Grealish has missed the last four games with Villa only claiming one win during this run. Villa lost 1-0 at bottom side Sheffield United in their last away match and failed to sparkle in a dour 0-0 draw at home to Wolves last weekend.
The visitors Aston Villa are 2.0811/10 and that's probably odds-against as Grealish remains sidelined.
Villa defeated Newcastle 2-0 in January and are clearly the better team. But Villa have only won one of their last five matches and are not heading into this fixture with the confidence and momentum from earlier in the campaign.
Newcastle are 3.9 outsiders for this game but there is no interest in siding with the hosts.
A record of two wins from their last 16 league matches says it all and a haul of eight points in 2021 is the second worst in the competition.
The draw is available at 3.65 and is a more appealing option than backing Newcastle. The hosts have drawn their last two games and last season's meeting at St James' Park ended level. Only four of Villa's games have ended in a draw this season though and the visitors certainly look the more likely winners.
Newcastle have only managed 27 goals in as many league games and the Magpies come up against an Aston Villa team with the third best defensive record in the division. This certainly points towards a relatively low-scoring game and is backed up by previous meetings. The last ten clashes between Newcastle and Aston Villa have all produced under three goals.
Five of Villa's last six games have resulted in no more than two goals while three of Newcastle's last four matches have also seen under 2.5 goals. The hosts' attacking limitations, which have been increased by the injuries to Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin, are likely to contribute to another game lacking an end product. Backing under 2.5 goals stands out and is a confident selection at 1.814/5.
Only Manchester City have kept more Premier League clean sheets than Aston Villa this season (14). Eight of those shutouts for the Villans have been away from home, more than any other side. Villa are 7/5 to keep another clean sheet.
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