Newcastle United play Aston Villa at 8pm on Friday night in The Premier League needing a win to keep the threat of relegation at bay after a hard-fought draw & point at West Brom that practically condemned The Baggies to a fifth Premier League relegation.

The point moved Newcastle up to 16th after Brighton lost for the third successive game, this time to Leicester to fall to 17th before next's week 6-pointer between The Magpies and The Seagulls and Fulham's win at Liverpool heightened the pressure at the bottom of the table as Scott Parker's men moved up to 26 points just one behind Newcastle although Steve Bruce's men have a crucial game in hand.

First up its Aston Villa, who are in a slump of their own of 1 win in 5 games, four of which have been without creative talisman Jack Grealish, who presence in their team is the difference between a push for Europe and a relegation scrap in terms of points per game for Dean Smith's men, and Newcastle have received an early boost that he is out.

In the reverse fixture at Villa Park, Newcastle were too easily brushed aside 2-0 by a Grealish-inspired Aston Villa so Geordie fans will be glad his injury woes continue for another game but Newcastle have won 2 and drawn 2 of the 8 games played since having switched to a back four and more attacking formation when personnel allows.

Both those wins, however, were heavily influenced by Callum Wilson, who was superb at Everton scoring twice, and Miguel Almiron & Allan Saint-Maximin who decimated Southampton before being injured in the Wolves fixture, although the Magpies have managed to draw twice on the bounce now with Joelinton leading the line.

He and Ryan Fraser started up front at The Hawthorns vs West Brom with Joe Willock bombing on behind them and they caused Albion's defence problems without finding the cutting edge to score and Dwight Gayle's second half introduction changed little.

Andy Carroll came on as a substitute with 30 seconds left to eat up the clock in what was a must-not-lose encounter for Steve Bruce after a turbulent week on Tyneside and was perhaps sending the Head Coach a message via this post on Instagram and he needs a minimum 30 minute run-out tomorrow night if not the start he craves.

Possessing the "Geordie chip" that late Newcastle owner Freddie Shepherd believed gave local managers and players an extra percent incentive and will to win at the club, confident Carroll clearly believes he is the man to drag the Magpies to safety:

Newcastle played a back five against Aston Villa when Carroll started up front with Wilson from the start at Villa Park but will surely pose much more of a threat in a more attack-minded team and formation as the Magpies go for the jugular and all 3 points and I would start him with Willock behind, Joelinton left and Ryan Fraser on the right.

Carroll was excellent in a 4-4-2 formation in the win to kick off the season against West Ham yet a week later the formation flopped against a Tariq Lamptey-inspired Brighton side at St. James' Park a week later, a player who has been ruled out for the season:

The Magpies may be better sticking to the fluid 4-3-3 that has yielded the last 8 points & a win against Villa will put Newcastle on 30 points before that do-or-die game against Brighton next Saturday night and with Carroll playing will have more leadership, aerial power, physical & mental strength & if crosses & balls into the box are provided, goals.

Dean Smith, in his presser, called his side's slump in form 'inconsistency':

“Like most teams at the moment, we’ve been a little bit inconsistent with results recently.”

talked up the start of Villa's season and paid tribute to his in-form goalkeeper Emilio Martinez, who is winning plaudits weekly, and also to opposite number Steve Bruce:

“I’m very respectful of what Steve Bruce has done in the game and what he continues to do. They finished in a very good position in the league last season and I’ve no doubt they’ll do so again.
“I’m not here to tell anybody what Steve Bruce can do. He’s a far more experienced manager than I am.
“Five or six teams are looking over their shoulders – Newcastle being one of them. There’s extra importance on each game they play now.”

Back on Tyneside, Steve Bruce hoped a win in the first Premier League game of the weekend can give his side a psychological edge in the relegation battle by winning on Friday night before Brighton play Crystal Palace and Fulham host the runaway leaders Man City, and have 30 points banked with ten games remaining. Howay the Lads.

Prediction - Newcastle United 3 Aston Villa 0

Potential Line Ups: