Benitez Suggests Villa Short of Expectations Ahead of Di Matteo’s Biggest Villa Test

The Villa Appetiser: Aston Villa v Newcastle 2016

Both Villa and Newcastle were promotion favourites at the start of this season, but Villa haven’t lived up to the billing so far this season.

Despite ultimately being relegated, the arrival of Benitez lifted the mood in Newcastle and that has continued into this Championship campaign.

Things are always unpredictable in this league, but the difference in form makes this Di Matteo’s toughest test yet. Throw into the mix a recently-reignited rivalry and it makes Saturday’s game an important fixture.

Who will prevail in the battle of the Champions League winning managers?

Di Matteo on Newcastle

“They have probably started the season a little bit better. I think they are little bit more settled than us as a team.

“But it’s probably an even game I would say. We have the home advantage.
They are a strong side. But it makes for a good game.
It’s a big game for us and Newcastle. It should make it an exciting match.”

Benitez on Villa

“It is a big game and it shows how important English football is around the world as people will be watching.

“If you analyse what Villa have it’s big club with big players. People expected them to be near the top. They’re still a massive club.”

jordan ayew has had the joint most shots in the Championship this season (21)

Benitez on the Championship

“You can see a lot of players and good managers in there. There are big clubs and the Championship is still one of the strongest leagues in the world.

When you analyse it you see the Spanish League, Serie A, Bundesliga up there but the Championship is fifth or sixth in terms of money and calibre of people. I think it’s really important and the level of the clubs in it gets bigger.”

Memory Match

7th May 2016 Villa 0 Newcastle 0 

Newcastle were unable to secure three points as they battled for survival against already-relegated Villa.

Villa – Last five matches at home: W 1, D 4

Newcastle– Last five matches away: W 3, D 1, L 1

Villa have failed to beat Newcastle at home during the last five encounters at Villa Park.

One to Watch

Ciaran Clark – One of this season’s more surprising departures, Clark starred in Newcastle’s 6-0 win at QPR.

Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet

Look away Villa fans, it doesn’t make for comfortable reading…

OK, we’re exaggerating a bit, but our record against the Magpies is weirdly bad – they’re unbeaten in their last 10 most recent league encounters with Villa.

As Newcastle have risen up the Championship table, they have won their last three away league games, while Villa have drawn our last three home games.
We’ve failed to score in our last two meetings at Villa Park against Newcastle, and have scored just once in our last five league encounters.
The frustrations continue for Villa. Ipswich aside, we’ve been doing so much right, and have gone ahead in five games so far, but have won only one of those games.
Similarly, Ayew epitomises our troubles in front of goal, despite dominance. The Ghana striker has had the joint most shots in the Championship this season (21), but has not yet scored.
In stark contrast, Newcastle have had seven different names score for them this season, the highest amount in the league.
To make matters worse, their away form is ominous. In their last three away games, they’ve kept a clean sheet, been winning at half time, and recorded three victories in the process. During this time came the aforementioned 6-0 thrashing away at QPR…

“People expected them to be near the top. They’re still a massive club.” – benitez on villa

Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag

The statistics look worrying, and Villa’s form has been disappointing, but let’s not get too pessimistic.

Sure, Newcastle have been on a fantastic run, but the table doesn’t always tell the full story.

We’ve already spoken too much of missed chances and how Villa should have won games comfortably. If you think about it, Saturday could give us an opportunity to show the opposite of this.

Teams have visited Villa Park this season desperate to come away with a point, parking the bus and unfortunately nicking an equaliser.

Newcastle will be in no mood to settle for a point, however, which could give Villa more opportunities to make the most of the neat attacking moves we’ve seen flashes of.

While we’re not sure what will be happening with Grealish yet, Albert Adomah is now fully fit, so could have the chance to show more than he did in his cameo appearance last weekend.

Add to this that Tshibola could feature too and all of a sudden the midfield looks much stronger – it will need to be!

By our reckoning (and doing a little more straw-clutching!), the last time we won a televised game came around this time last year – against none other than Birmingham City. We’re long overdue a win in front of the TV cameras.

Hopefully we can build on our defensive improvement last weekend at Ipswich, and lay down a marker for the season with a win on Saturday.


The latest MOMS podcast…what’s up with the Villa midfield? Jedinak’s Jungle and much more…