Newcastle v Villa relegation rumble: Which club could tumble?
Holly Thackeray | December 17, 2015
Festive fray for floundering fallen giants
Is it too early to class the upcoming clash between Newcastle United and Aston Villa as a relegation six-pointer? Perhaps not, as the decisive duel arrives just before a crucial flurry of festive fixtures which mark the half-way point of this Premier League season.
For the visiting Villans, Christmas is a unique opportunity to turn around the torrid run that has stretched since opening day, when the Birmingham-based club collected their first and only win so far from a calamitous league campaign.
New boss Remi Garde will face three relegation rivals in the space of four weeks, with a trip to West Ham United sandwiched in between home games versus the Magpies and fellow bottom dwellers Sunderland and Norwich City.
One of these big teams, complete with expectant fanbases, is likely to take a tumble and succumb to the trap door at the end of the season and, this run of matches could prove key, with a gaggle of clubs on shaky foundations.
Garde’s problems growing
Gaffer Garde took over somewhat of a poisoned chalice, with his new club on the market and in the mire, full of lofty ambitions but also proving far from fruitful in results and recruitment.
The second city side simply must find a catalyst to inspire a vein of fierce form, with fans desperately searching for a sign that the Midlands men are up for a dogfight.
Survival could start at St James’ Park, as Aston Villa (14/5 outsiders with Coral to win) seek to emulate Steve McClaren’s recent Tyneside magic, which has seen the Magpies snatch two triumphs on the trot and fly as many points clear of the relegation zone.
If Villa are to drag themselves away from danger, they cannot start the new calendar year still stuck on six points, which is currently half the haul of closest competitors for Championship status, Sunderland.
Yet, it is an age old question, where will the goals come from? If they cannot keep clean sheets, Villa must score more. Scott Sinclair seems the most likely threat at 11/4 in the anytime market to strike against the Toon, but frontmen Rudy Gestede and Gabriel Agbonlahor are worryingly off the boil.
Magpies made of sterner stuff?
Of the two toiling teams, Newcastle look most likely to survive, though a home loss here could halt momentum almost as quickly as it started.
Due to back-to-back victories against Liverpool and Tottenham, teams they were not expected to trouble, perceptions around St James’ Park have changed swiftly.
Now McClaren is even-money favourite to claim a third win on the trot and further enhance his side’s chances of staying up. With joint-most goals conceded this campaign, Newcastle, famous for favouring flamboyant football over results in seasons past, have channelled that spirit again in recent frays.
With much potential in their Northeast ranks, from recent goal heroes Ayoze Perez and Aleksandar Mitrovic, to outstanding attacker Georginio Wijnaldum (a 7/4 anytime shout) and midfield mettle from Moussa Sissoko, there are players who can step up and inspire.
With playmaking prodigy Jack Grealish far from polished and yet to nail down a starting spot, Garde will be left to hope Spanish pair Carles Gil and Adama Traore’s talents can be harnessed in time to save their top-tier status.
On current evidence, though their two points worth of breathing space look slim, a few more dogged and defiant displays could see Villa left firmly in the dust. At 9/5 now to be relegated and 2/5 to stay up, the Magpies are the much better bet than their Midlands (odds-on at 1/8 for the drop) opponents to achieve safety, as well as take the spoils in this scuffle.