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Saturday’s solitary Premier League showdown sees Aston Villa entertain Newcastle.
Covid-hit Aston Villa battled in vain at The Etihad on Wednesday night as Man City eventually broke the visitors’ resistance with two goals in the final 10 minutes of their rearranged Premier League game. On a soaking-wet night in Manchester, Villa’s first-team defended for their lives as they returned to action for the first time since New Year’s Day.
Dean Smith’s side showed no after-effects of their 19-day hiatus and produced a dogged defensive display. Villa held out until the 79th minute, when Rodri controversially stole the ball off Tyrone Mings before feeding Bernardo, with Smith sent off for his protests in the aftermath. A harsh handball penalty against Matty Cash settled matters late on.
Speaking post-match, Smith said: “It was a farcical decision (to allow the first goal). I’ve not seen a goal like that given. It needs to be looked at. For the second goal, a header from a yard out that has hit his arm. That’s not handball. Ridiculous. It was a heroic performance in terms of energy and commitment but we didn’t show enough quality against a very good team.”
Newcastle fell to a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal on Monday evening, extending the Magpies’ winless streak to nine games across all competitions, and intensifying the pressure on beleaguered boss Steve Bruce. The Toon made eight changes to their starting XI, switching system to a more attack-minded approach but conjured up just four attempts at goal.
Prior to The Emirates encounter, Bruce said the “gloves would come off” as Newcastle fielded a 4-4-2 with attacking players Joelinton, Miguel Almiron, Andy Carroll and Callum Wilson all starting. The first half did show promise and was a vast improvement on their previous display at Sheffield United but after the break, familiar failings were exposed once more.
Newcastle struggled to create opportunities as Joelinton and Wilson had very quiet games, whilst only a number of fine saves from Karl Darlow prevented a wider margin of defeat. Bruce remained bullish about his position post-match and suggested he saw promising signs in the performance in the capital, instead bemoaning the lack of confidence in his side.
Aston Villa haven’t often enjoyed Premier League meetings with Newcastle, taking top honours only once in their last 12 head-to-heads at this level (W1-D6-L5). However, the Villans are unbeaten in their most recent four match-ups (W1-D3-L0), winning this fixture 2-0 last season. The hosts have actually silenced the Magpies in each of their past three here.
Prior to Wednesday night, Aston Villa 1.50 sat third for Expected Points (xP) per-game in the Premier League this season, highlighting their impressive progress since lockdown. Dean Smith’s side also lead the way in terms of Expected Goals (xG) generated, non-penalty xG (npxG), plus non-penalty big chances created, as well as shots attempted per-game.
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