Tactical Preview: Aston Villa vs. Newcastle United

For Villa to win, Benteke will have to step up. - Mark Thompson

In a game that could be seen as a must-win for both managers in terms of fan support, here’s a preview of what the gaffers may choose for Sunday’s match at Sporting Direct Park.

Newcastle have generally lined up in a 4-2-3-1 under Alan Pardew. However, since he is essentially coaching for his job this week, he may favor a different setup. The loss of Yohann Cabaye to PSG has been tough and has shown in the Magpies recent form. As Robert and I talked about in this week's Holtecast, Newcastle's form has been dreadful. In their four previous matches, they have been held scoreless while conceding 10 goals. Looking at an even longer timespan, they have only won once since Boxing Day. Loïc Rémy will return to the team from suspension, he missed the last three matches after hitting the post three times and then getting sent off against Norwich City on January 28th in a game that finished 0-0. Papiss Cissé has started in his absence, but the Senegal international has struggled to find the good goalscoring form he had enjoyed the past two campaigns under Pardew. Chiek Tioté will return for Newcastle, and club captain Fabricio Coloccini is probable to return to action for the first time since early January, but probably will not be match-fit so therefore wont really be in contention for a starting place. Hatem Ben Arfa ran the Villa defense ragged in the first meeting of the season between the two sides, and could be a key man again. Granted the Aston Villa backline is much improved since the teams met in Birmingham, but Ben Arfa really is a quality player and should start, despite the player supposedly being put on the transfer market following a chewing out from manager Pardew after Newcastle lost 4-0 to Spurs.

Paul Lambert has preferred to roll with a 4-3-3 lately. The Aston Villa boss has been hampered a bit by injuries to some of his senior squad members (Ron Vlaar and Gabby Agbonlahor), but both are back to 100% health after the team returned from a warm weather training camp in Portugal. Both should return to their places in the starting lineup. Other than that, Villa don't have anyone who is out for the match other than the players who are on extended leaves of absence due to serious injuries. Marc Albrighton continues to be a bright spot in an otherwise dull season, but Andi Weimann has seen somewhat of a return to the player we expected to see this season through his recent scoring exploits in addition to usual running all over the place and causing havoc. This presents a selection dilemma for Lambert should he be deciding between players at the Right Forward/Right Winger position. I would like for Lambert to go with a 4-4-2, however there isn't really a left midfielder who could play there, unless a double left back system were to be deployed with the likes of Joe Bennett playing ahead of Ryan Bertrand. I would choose Albrighton to start and bring Weimann in as the first sub off the bench if a forward is struggling. Benteke hasn't quite been at his best lately, however he is by and large the best player at the club, and surely instills confidence in his teammates when he takes the pitch, regardless if he had a bad day at the office last time out. I expect him to be the key man for Villa. When Gabby Agbonlahor has been fully fit this season, Villa have been incredibly dangerous and equally fun to watch on the counter attack. He will start at Left Forward/Left Wing and will give the side a much-needed boost of pace. Fabian Delph continues to be one of the first names on the teamsheet and with Gary Gardner out on loan, I can't slot him into the team in my preview to spite Lambert. With Vlaar back and Bertrand fully cemented in the Left Back Role, that leaves four slots left in the team; CB, RB, and two CM positions. Nathan Baker should get the start at CB, purely due to the fact that he is a higher injury risk than Ciaran Clark and you can never afford to burn two substitutions at one position. I'd like to see Matt Lowton back at Right Back. Leandro Bacuna has shown some improvement in recent weeks, but I would like to see what he could do at CM. The other CM spot should go to Karim El Ahmadi. I'm not really sure what people see in Ashley Westwood, but I am starting to think that he isn't cut out for the Premier League. Hopefully he proves me wrong, but the kind of player that is known for his passing prowess shouldn't give the ball away so often. Off the bench, Grant Holt hasn't been entirely horrible. That being said, I hope he isn't subbed on in this match. Lets see what Helenius can actually do.

Here is the lineup I would go with:

football formations

Subs from: Steer, Sylla, Weimann, Helenius, Westwood, Clark, Bennett.

As always, comment what you would do differently!

Be sure to check out this week's version of the Holtecast as well.

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