After a weekend off thanks to the FA Cup 4th Round taking precedence, Newcastle finally return to Premier League action tonight when they take on Aston Villa in the biggest game of their season so far.

Some would describe the clash as a “six-pointer”, with both sides sweating in the relegation battle and in desperate need of points. Villa manager Paul Lambert is also fighting to keep his job after being knocked out of both cup competitions by lower league opposition in the space of four days.

Millwall toppled the hapless Villans on Friday night thanks to a late goal and rumours of Lambert’s sacking soon circulated around the internet, only for owner Randy Lerner to back the former Norwich boss.

Newcastle go into the game with renewed optimism and hope, brought to them by the arrival of four new signings. Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Moussa Sissoko all joined the Magpies in the space of four days last week, and have all travelled to Villa Park tonight.

Alan Pardew has confirmed Sissoko will start, whilst Haidara is left out altogether. It is understood the French left-back is considered a future first-team player, so to see him left out of the squad isn’t much of a surprise.

For the first time in some weeks, Pardew has genuine options when it comes to team selection. Yoan Gouffran is pushing for a place up front if Papiss Cisse isn’t fully fit, while centre midfield is now brimming with quality with Vurnon Anita, Yohan Cabaye and Sissoko all fit and available.

Fabricio Coloccini will start and captain the side as usual, with his future now settled until the summer at least. The 31-year old has reiterated his focus on the task of keeping his side in the Premier League and the fans seem to have accepted that their Captain will be leading the side in their battle against the drop.

Ryan Taylor, Haris Vuckic, Danny Simpson and Hatem Ben Arfa are all injured for Newcastle, while Cheick Tiote’s Ivory Coast side are going well in the African Cup of Nations and the midfield enforcer isn’t expected back for another fortnight at least.

Aston Villa are without Richard Dunne, Chris Herd, Marc Albrighton, Stiliyan Petrov, Fabien Delph and Gary Gardner. Nathan Baker could return though and Christian Benteke – Villa’s only bright point of an awful season – is fit to start up front.

A win for Newcastle would be their first away triumph of the season and could lift them above Southampton into 15th. Should Villa take the points, it would leave Newcastle one place outside the relegation zone, with the possibility of them dropping into it if other results going against them.

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  1. adam

    It's good to see that Newcastle like to invest in the future of the English game! It's like Villa versus Marseille. Oh sorry, Marseille probably have fewer French players than Newcastle !!!

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  2. adam

    i didn't think you'd approve my comment about the number of frenchmen in the newcastle team – made earlier this afternoon. Not sour grapes on my part, but just a reflection of where the game is going at club level in the premier league. Little wonder the national team continually chokes at critical stages in tournaments. At least I can say that Villa are doing their part – having supplied the highest number of English players to the national team since records began. All the best to Newcastle btw, I have always has a soft spot for them, since the keegan and beardsley days – and did want them to stay up when they were relegated at Villa Park.

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