Plenty of interest in the live Sky game on Saturday night as Champions League Newcastle welcome in the trendy pick to break into the top four this season, Aston Villa. Chris Rivers previews the game and picks out two tips for you to consider…
Few clubs enter the new season with as much optimism as Newcastle and Aston Villa, who are both hoping to build on 2022/23 campaigns that ended with top-seven finishes and European qualification.
For the Magpies, they are back in the Champions League after breaking into the top four and are 8/11 favourites to start the campaign with a win at St James’ Park, where they were so tough to beat last season.
The Villans lost 4-0 the last time they were on Tyneside in their final game before Unai Emery took charge.
Villa have been transformed under the Spaniard, putting a rotten start to the last campaign behind them to eventually claim a Europa Conference Lague spot and don’t seem content to rest on their laurels.
Fabian Schar has recovered quickly from a hamstring injury sustained in pre-season and has been passed fit to play, but Joe Willock’s own hamstring issue will keep him out until after the international break, while new signing Tino Liveramento is unlikely to feature.
It’s been a rough pre-season for Villa on the injury front with Emi Buendia damaging his cruciate ligament in training earlier this week.
He joins Leander Dendoncker, Alex Moreno, Jacob Ramsey, Bertrand Traore, Jhon Duran and Tim Iroegbunam in missing the trip to Newcastle.
Draw @ 11/4
These two sides played out an entertaining 3-3 draw in pre-season and there’s reason to believe they’ll frank that form in a competitive environment, albeit with fewer goals.
Only Arsenal and Liverpool managed to beat Newcastle at St James’ Park last season, but the Magpies did also have a high number of home draws on their record
– only Brentford (seven) drew more games at home than Newcastle’s six amongst the league’s top-10.
Here, Newcastle are facing a Villa side which inflicted on them their biggest defeat of last season – a 3-0 loss at Villa Park – and a side that collected two more points than Eddie Howe’s men following Emery’s arrival in November.
Both teams have had successful transfer windows with the potential for more signings to come, went through pre-season unbeaten and look well-matched on paper for a fixture that’s ended all square in three of the last five top-flight meetings between the duo at St James’ Park.
Isak to score and both teams to get over 19.5 booking points #PickYourPunt @ 2/1
While a repeat of the six-goal pre-season thriller appears unlikely, there is the potential for both sides to get on the scoresheet with Ollie Watkins and new signing Moussa Diaby Villa’s main threats.
Callum Wilson is the market favourite amongst those wearing black and white, but Alexander Isak is perhaps a more interesting option.
The Swede bagged ten goals in 22 league appearances for the Magpies last term and got on the scoresheet in pre-season, including in the clash with Villa.
Isak is worth taking a chance on, as are both teams falling foul of the new stricter guidelines being handed to referees, who have been told to clamp down on gamesmanship and backchat.
Andy Madley is the man in the middle for this fixture and he handed out just under four yellow cards per game last season.
Villa received the fourth-highest number of yellow cards in the Premier League last season (80), while Newcastle had at least two players booked in each of their final three home games.
For the booking points side of the #PickYourPunt double to land, both teams would need to receive at least two yellow cards, worth ten points each, or a red card, which is worth 25 points.