Aston Villa will be backed by a euphoric home crowd this afternoon with Dean Smith set to shuffle his pack for the visit of Newcastle.
Villa are still stinging from last week’s 3-2 loss at the hands of newly-promoted Watford with the boss raging at his players in his post-match press conference.
Villa were second to almost everything in that first half at Vicarage Road but improved slightly late on when Smith brought on Jacob Ramsey, Leon Bailey and Bertrand Traore.
The head coach will, though, be without Ollie Watkins (knee) once again while Traore is also sidelined after pulling his hamstring in last Sunday’s behind-closed-doors friendly with Liverpool.
To the all important team selection on Villa’s homecoming then and, as ever, it’ll be Emi Martinez with a centre-back duo of Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa ahead of him. Matty Cash will start at right-back but, on the left, there’s a big decision to make over who starts: Matt Targett or Ashley Young.
It was Targett who was hooked off at Watford last week after struggling to get to grips with Ismaila Sarr while, in the second half, 36-year-old Young nipped Sarr’s threat in the bud with a solid enough showing.
Toon boss Steve Bruce is likely to unleash a buzzing Allan Saint-Maximin down Villa’s left side so it’ll be up to Smith to get his selection right in terms of picking Targett who has a point to prove or rewarding Young for his display last week.
To the most-talked about topic at present and that’s Villa’s midfield. John McGinn is a nailed-on starter after he rolled up his sleeves at Watford and scored a sublime volley but it’s who’s next to him that’ll be intriguing come 2pm.
Marvelous Nakamba struggled last time out with the Zimbabwean bossed for large spells by those in yellow shirts. Nakamba might just get a reprieve, though, given Smith’s hint at Douglas Luiz perhaps being just short of match sharpness at present after his post-Olympics week off.
With McGinn and Nakamba potentially starting, the pair could be bolstered by having Ramsey in alongside them. At his press conference on Friday, Smith spoke glowingly of the teenager’s influence at Watford after his half-time introduction and it’s clear just how much the boss rates Villa’s academy graduate. Should he start tomorrow then Ramsey must put in a point-proving performance to prove the doubters wrong and to fully announce himself on the Premier League stage.
In attack for Villa, Emi Buendia might be shifted out to his favoured right-side position after struggling to make an impact centrally last week. On the opposite flank and, despite hinting at Leon Bailey’s lack of fitness, Smith might just go with the Jamaican from the start in a bid to catch Newcastle cold and to charge up that sell-out crowd knowing bums will be off seats every time Bailey picks up the ball.
Fellow new signing Danny Ings will, of course, lead the line given Villa’s lack of options in attack at present with Wesley a back up option from off the bench.
Here’s how we think Villa could line-up against Bruce’s Newcastle at Villa Park later;
Aston Villa predicted XI vs Newcastle (4-3-3): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, A.Young; Nakamba, McGinn, J.Ramsey; Bailey, Ings, Buendia.
Squad from: Steer, Tuanzebe, Hause, Guilbert, Targett, Hourihane, Chukwuemeka, Philogene-Bidace, El Ghazi, Wesley.
Doubtful or out: Douglas Luiz, Sanson, Traore, Trezeguet, Davis, Watkins.
Newcastle last time vs West Ham (5-3-2): Woodman; J.Murphy, Krafth (S.Longstaff, 84), Fernandez, Clark, Ritchie; Hayden, Shelvey (Fraser, 70), Almiron; Wilson (Joelinton, 85), Saint-Maximin.