Feb 23, 2014, 8:15 AM EDT
Two teams on poor form look to turn things around at St. James Park this morning, with Aston Villa on the road to face a safe yet unsettled Newcastle squad at 8:30am ET live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.
Despite Newcastle a comfortable 13 points above the relegation zone, they’re also in mid-table limbo, out of reach of anyone in the top seven as well.
With that in mind, Alan Pardew went on record having said his players could be playing for their places, and following those comments Hatem Ben Arfa fails to make the squad of 18 – nowhere to be found on the teamsheet. Sylvain Marveaux is another name that mysteriously did not appear.
Pardew has made such a declaration thanks to a pair of hammerings in their last two times out – a 4-0 loss to Spurs and a 3-0 defeat to Chelsea. Newcastle have not scored in their last four matches.
The Magpies manager has plenty of options to choose from today, receiving a major boost to his squad. Striker Loic Remy is back from his three-match suspension, and both Fabricio Coloccini and Chieck Tiote return from injury. All three made the starting lineup.
The visitors have much more on the line table-wise, with Villa sitting just four points above the relegation zone. They, like Newcastle, come into the match limping, having lost two of their last three matches, scoring just one goal during that span.
Villa also, however, have a majorly fit squad for this matchup. Both Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor start up front. Benteke appeared to have put a ghastly season behind him with three goals in three games, but it’s again dried up over their last three matches. Agbonlahor has been an outstanding creator all season, but it’s also dried up for him over the last two.
Newcastle – Krul; Debuchy, Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett; Sissoko, Tiote, Anita, Gouffran; Remy, Cisse.
Bench – Elliott, Haidara, Yanga-Mbiwa, S.Taylor, Gosling, Shola Ameobi, de Jong.
Aston Villa – Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Bertrand; Westwood Delph, El Ahmadi, Weimann; Benteke, Agbonlahor.
Bench – Steer, Sylla, Holt, Clark, Albrighton, Tonev, Bennett.
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