Aston Villa welcome Newcastle United next Monday night under the floodlights in a bottom half of the table clash.
Former AVFC boss Steve Bruce, now at Newcastle, heads to Villa Park – the stadium he used to call home – for the first time since he was sacked by the club in October 2018.
Bruce was sacked in controversial circumstances: the day after a cabbage was thrown at him by a fan before Villa’s 3-all home draw with Preston North End last October. He’ll be hoping for a warmer welcome this time around.Embed from Getty Images
The 58-year-old will no doubt want his players to continue Newcastle’s three-game unbeaten run. Their last two matches were wins against West Ham United and AFC Bournemouth.
Villa enter the game in much different form. After three back-to-back defeats to Manchester City, Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers, Villa boss Dean Smith will be determined for a vast improvement in the Villains’ form.
Smith has faced Bruce as Villa manager once before: last season when Bruce was Sheffield Wednesday manager. Smith’s Villa side came away from Hillsborough victorious after two late goals sealed a 3-1 win.Embed from Getty Images
Villa languish 17th in the Premier League, just three points above the relegation places. Three points against The Magpies is vital for the team, as tough away games against Chelsea and Manchester United are to come next month. Newcastle currently sit 13th.
The Midlands side enter the game with injury worries. Local-boy and captain Jack Grealish missed their last outing versus Wolves. While defender Björn Engels and England goalkeeper Tom Heaton – who has withdrawn from international duties are also both out. To compound it all, second choice keeper Jed Steer is unavailable after going off injured in Villa’s last match.
Grealish has been in light training this week after a bleed on his calf and Smith will be hoping to have him fit for the Monday night clash. One plus for Smith is having Jota back, after having a successful hernia operation.
The Toon Army also face injury woes, captain Jamaal Lascelles suffered a knee injury after a collision with Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson in their previous fixture and faces a lengthy spell on the side-lines.
Villa’s current in-form winger Trézéguet will be looking to make it three goals in three games after scoring in both of his previous two fixtures and fire the Lions up the table before a busy Christmas period.