Newcastle United head into MatchWeek 14 of the 2022/23 season in 4th position in The Premier League with a genuine chance of qualifying for The Champions League after better officiating of late has enabled The Magpies to recapture their form of early 2022 with a superb 2-1 win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium against Antonio Conte's Spurs:
The win - which Eddie Howe said was the best in his tenure so far at St James' Park - & 3 points means Newcastle have amassed 59 Premier League points in the calendar year of 2022 - more than direct rivals Man United and Chelsea as the former Big Six becomes a Super Seven including the Saudi-backed Magpies in both spending and on-field merit:
There is a growing belief among the Geordie fanbase that, if anything, Newcastle should be higher in the Premier League and potentially even top of the table had dodgy VAR decisions against the club in the early part of the season been decided on the leveller playing field that has emerged since the Crystal Palace fiasco when the Premier League admitted to a goal-costing VAR error that denied the club a win & 2 points (and the rest):
Yet Newcastle are firmly in the hunt for Champions League football this season with an unencumbered run at the top spots without European entanglements and with less of the first team squad than the other clubs in the Super Seven headed to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar next month so The Magpies look poised for the "special things" Howe spoke of after the game:
Above anything, Howe is determined to ensure the Spurs away win is not a one-off and had already turned his focus to Saturday's visit of Aston Villa, who had an impressive win 4-0 over Brentford last weekend following the sacking of manager Steven Gerrard:
That was under the guidance of interim manager Aaron Danks, who will be in the dugout at St James' Park despite Villa's appointment of one-time Newcastle target Unai Emery, who has surprisingly swapped the Europa Conference League with Villareal for a relegation battle in Birmingham although will not assume control until November 1st after the clash against the club whose first choice he was of the new owners:
It still adds spice to an encounter which has morphed into a mini-rivalry between the clubs and fanbases certainly on social-media platforms like Twitter where fans can be seen arguing over the size of the respective clubs and exchanging banter:
and poking fun at each other's achievements, League position etc and like the bubbling Everton rivalry also on Twitter, its a product of the social media age and Newcastle not having a serious local rival in either Sunderland or Middlesborough at the moment:
Back to the serious stuff and Aston Villa, despite last Saturday's convincing win, are 15th in the table just three points above the drop zone having won only three times this season in 12 games which is why Steven Gerrard got the sack having spent over £80M on good players the calibre of Philippe Countinho, Darren Ings and Luca Digne.
Villa's remaining fixtures before The Premier League's World Cup break after the Newcastle game are Man United at home and a trip to Brighton Hove Albion - as well as a Carabao Cup Third Round encounter at Old Trafford against the Red Devils again - so Unai Emery has his work cut-out to avoid being in the drop zone over the Winter break.
Emery has swapped a European Conference challenge with Villareal for the reality of relegation battle with the Villains but it is likely to be Aaron Danks, the caretaker boss who inspired last week's 4-0 victory, who will be in the dugout at St James' Park and the 37 year-old former Assistant Manager at Villa, England U20 and U21 & Anderlecht will be determined to leave his temporary role with another positive result.
Newcastle, meanwhile, have a chance to kick on in their Champions League quest and Eddie Howe was in confident mood in his presser ahead of the game:
And the potential return of Allan Saint-Maximin adds more attacking menace to the Newcastle attack:
Prediction - Newcastle 3 Aston Villa 0