Key names return as Newcastle travel to Villa

This evening, Newcastle will travel to the second city for a Monday Night Football clash at Villa Park. Steve Bruce and his side come into this game in fine form, searching for their third consecutive win for the first time in over a year. Also, for the first time in three games, Bruce will have the likes of Fabian Schar to call upon.

As well as that, Florian Lejeune is in contention to play for the first time this season as he returns from his second ACL injury in a little over a year. That leaves Newcastle in a decent position at the back and means they’re more than capable of covering the holes left by the absences of Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark.

The last two games have seen Newcastle take two very impressive victories – the first away at West Ham, and the second at home to Bournemouth. Showing resilience to hang on to leads as well as a lot of character to come from behind against the Cherries, it’s been a good few weeks for the Magpies. In fact, their only loss since the start of October came away at Chelsea.

Tonight’s match-up will certainly be an interesting evening for Steve Bruce. The last time the Newcastle boss was at Villa Park, an enraged Villa fan threw a cabbage at him in protest. His time there ended very sourly, so he’ll be determined to turn up tonight and get all three points – regardless of how happy he says he is to see them in the Premier League.

One thing is for certain – the mood at the club is a positive one, and they’re looking forward to the game tonight.

“The difference in a couple of weeks and a couple of wins and what it does, especially to a club like ours, is remarkable,” Bruce said. “The players are bouncing around the place, training is as lively as it has ever been and they’re all champing at the bit.

“We’ve picked up one or two knocks but we’ve got one or two getting back fit so let’s hope we can keep the run going.”

On the other side of the ball tonight, Dean Smith will have his captian, Jack Grealish, available to call upon for the first time in four weeks. As well as that, Tom Heaton, Bjorn Engels and Matt Targett should all be available for selection.

Aston Villa will be hoping to end a torrid run of form against the Magpies tonight – they haven’t managed to pick up a win against Newcastle in the league since a 1-0 victory at Villa Park back in April 2011.

Perhaps the weirdest of all the stats going into this one is the fact that seven of Newcastle’s last nine goals have been scored by defenders. It’s great they’ve got so many goals from the back – but the forward three really need to turn their excellent performances and work rate into goals.

The ramifications of this one mean that should Newcastle pick up the victory, they’ll move up to ninth in the league and will be a very healthy 8 points above the relegation zone. For Aston Villa, victory would see them jump two places to 15th, but they can’t overtake their visitors tonight.

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