Newcastle United host Aston Villa at St James’ Park this afternoon, and Eddie Howe will be hoping that his side can continue their incredible run of form in the Premier League when the Villans come to visit.
The Magpies are currently fourth in the table, matching Manchester United on 21 points, and taking all three points from today’s clash could see them push up into third depending on Tottenham Hotspur’s result against Bournemouth.
In terms of injuries, Alexander Isak, Karl Darlow, Matt Richie, Emil Krafth and Paul Dummett remain unavailable for selection today, although Howe has revealed a promising update on both Allan Saint-Maximin and Elliot Anderson.
During his pre-match press conference on Friday, the manager gave an update on the talented French winger, saying: “We’ll see how training goes today. He’s made really good progress, and I’m very pleased with how he’s attacked his rehab and the work he’s put in, so there’s an opportunity to hopefully get him fit and available.”
Howe confirmed that Anderson would also be fit, stating: “He’s OK. He had a minor niggle [before Spurs]. It was nothing serious, so he’s back in the squad for this week.”
With that being said, this is how Football Fancast expects Newcastle to line up against Aston Villa…
The first change we expect to see is Jonjo Shelvey reprising his role in midfield alongside Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton, replacing Sean Longstaff in the central role against Villa.
Shelvey has a wealth of experience in taking points off Aston Villa – winning seven, drawing five and losing just four of his 16 meetings against the Midlands club, scoring one goal and delivering two assists against them – so he could be Howe’s secret weapon in the heart of the team this afternoon.
The second change we expect to see is Ryan Fraser starting in the front three to replace Joelinton, who we predict will return to the midfield in favour of Longstaff after Howe’s tactical masterclass which saw the Brazilian successfully fend off Spurs’ wing-backs in an advanced role.
The 26-year-old’s move back into midfield means that Joe Willock could also miss out on a starting role in the team in order to accommodate Shelvey’s inclusion. Like Longstaff, the former Arsenal man earned a relatively low SofaScore rating of 6.4 against Spurs, which in turn could see the duo being omitted today.
It would come as no surprise if Saint-Maximin does pick up some minutes on the left wing in the second half, but Howe may not be keen for the injury-prone maverick to be thrown straight back into the deep end just yet.