I'm not even really sure where to begin with this match. Generally these spaces are where we tell you a bit about the team that Aston Villa will be playing in the upcoming match. But I've been mulling over the preview for about a day now and I keep coming back to the same conclusion: the opposition doesn't really matter all that much.
Sure, I can give you some information on Newcastle. There's the obvious stuff, like them being in 11th right now. Their -11 goal differential is pretty bad for that spot, and their porous defense could give Aston Villa a bit of hope. They'll be without Cieck Tiote, Siem de Jong, and Jack Colback, and they may be missing Daryl Janmaat and Remy Cabella, too.
If you want to dive a bit more deeply, you could look at their performances under John Carver since he replaced Alan Pardew. He's gone 1-3-3 in the league over that span, which is a heck of a lot better than Aston Villa have done. But it represents only taking 29% of the available points compared to Pardew's 45.6% this season. Sure, Toon fans may not have liked Pardew, but you can't just hope to replace the most handsome man in English football so easily.
But again, who really cares about the opposition? Aston Villa sure as heck don't. They've managed to lose to teams from across the spectrum of football. They haven't won a match since December was still young. They got absolutely punched in the gut against Stoke last weekend when Ron Vlaar's reckless tackle turned a milquetoast draw into a crippling defeat. Anyone who tells you that this match is Newcastle vs. Aston Villa is lying to you. This match is Aston Villa vs. themselves.
We're 26 matches through the season and Villa sit in 19th. We're at the point where it's crazy to expect wins, but they have to start appearing if this club has any chance of staying up next year. Tim Sherwood has set his sites on six wins for the club to gain safety, and while I'm not sure that's the only way, it does seem like a pretty good one. But traveling to Newcastle is probably not where we should expect those wins to start, which is a bit crazy. Newcastle are, if we're being honest, bad. On paper, if you showed me these two squads and allowed me to (mercifully) forget the season that we've watched, I would pick Villa to win or draw every single time.
And yet again, it's not about Newcastle. Can Villa manage to score? Can Carles Gil bounce back from his worst match yet in a Villa kit? Can the claret and blues put in a performance like the last 45 against Leicester and the first 45 against Stoke, or will we see more remnants of the Paul Lambert era haunting us? Does Christian Benteke even care any more or has he decided that if bad football is good enough for Gabby Agbonlahor it's good enough for him?
If Aston Villa can beat themselves - beat the team they have battled against in almost every single match this season - then I think we could reasonably expect to see a win from this trip. Do that and you gain a huge momentum boost headed into Tuesday's match against a bad West Brom side at Villa Park. A win could very easily provide the boost for a second. Six points later, I can't imagine Villa are still in the bottom three and they'd be riding a two-match winning streak headed into the FA Cup Quarterfinal match against West Brom again.
This is not a must-win match. This is, however, exactly the type of match that could have the power to re-write this season's narrative. Win here, take that momentum and get two more, and suddenly Tim Sherwood has Aston Villa afloat again and headed to Wembley for the FA Cup semifinals. Lose and... well, we just have to hope that the negative momentum doesn't stop Villa from beating the Baggies. It's not vital to win tomorrow, but it sure would let us know that there is some fight left in this club.