How Aston Villa Will Line Up Against Newcastle
During Villa's last two outings they lost 2-1 away to Chelsea before Liverpool left Villa Park with all three points in a 1-0 win. Paul Lambert's side gave a good account of themselves in both fixtures, however, and they were extremely unfortunate to leave Stamford Bridge without at least a point.
The young and relatively inexperienced side have displayed true grit, determination and a resoluteness that was distinctly lacking last year. It will give the Villa fans plenty of confidence that they can defeat Alan Pardew's Magpies, who currently sit one place above Villa in the league table.
Though he made a number of additions in the summer to bolster Villa's threadbare ranks, Lambert, in typical fashion, has endeavoured to maintain a consistency throughout his team selection in the opening three games and, injuries permitting, is likely to do the same this weekend.
So, in anticipation of the Midlands-based outfit's clash with their North East rivals, we take a look at how Villa will line up.
One of the two names that are a guarantee on the team sheet whenever fit, Brad Guzan knocked Shay Given off his perch at the start of the 2012/13 season and hasn't looked back.
The Chicago-born stopper has been one of Villa's star players—especially during last season's dismal campaign where he was voted Player of the Year—and recently signed a new contract which will keep him at the club until the end of the 2016/17 season.
Guzan has conceded four goals in as many games in all competitions this season and is certain to start against Newcastle.
Since his £3 million move from Sheffield United in July 2012, Matthew Lowton has become a firm fixture in the Villa defence. The right full-back, while not flashy, is a solid, dependable defender that likes to get forward.
He's featured in each of Villa's three games this term—demonstrating exactly why Lambert trusted him to play 37 of Villa's 38 games last season despite no previous experience in England's top flight.
The 24-year-old was one of the stand out players in Villa's 3-1 win over Arsenal at the Emirates on the opening day of the season. He worked tremendously alongside Ron Vlaar, Nathan Baker and Antonio Luna, as the visitors stifled Arsenal's attack for the majority of the game.
As Villa's captain, Ron Vlaar is sure to be in the side to face Newcastle. Referred to as "Beton Ron" in his native Netherlands—Beton meaning "concrete"—the Dutch centre-half's physical presence will be relied upon when Moussa Sissoko and Papiss Cisse visit Birmingham.
Incredibly strong, solid in the air and good with his feet, Vlaar will, as always, rally his troops and set the example as Villa look to claim their second win of the season.
Nathan Baker has made a recovery from the injury he sustained in the victory over Arsenal and is in contention for the clash against Newcastle, but Jores Okore should be the one to start.
The young Dane signed from Nordsjaelland in the summer following a number of impressive displays in the 2012/13 Champions League, and he is expected to flourish at Villa over the coming years.
Okore missed out on the opening day of the season but featured in Villa's subsequent two matches—playing the entire 90 minutes against Liverpool where, following a rather shaky start, he produced a commanding performance.
The 21-year-old will more than likely partner Vlaar at the heart of the Villa defence. Something of which he told Birmingham Mail's Mat Kendrick that he is looking forward to.
I think Ron is a really good defender.
He's a player with a lot of experience. He's the captain of our team and he steps forward on the pitch.
I think it's really good to play with Ron. I've played most minutes with him so I'm feeling really comfortable alongside him right now.
Spanish left-back Antonio Luna, or "Tony Moon" as he's referred to by many of the Villa faithful, will complete Villa's lineup at the weekend.
Luna has impressed so far, showing a real passion to get forward as he scored Villa's third against Arsenal and has been resolute at the back in his debut season.
Unfortunate to score an own in the clash at Stamford Bridge, Lambert will keep the faith with the dependable Spaniard.
Ashley Westwood is another youngster in the Villa ranks that recently put pen to paper to sign a bumper four-year deal with the club—a reward for a quite brilliant first season in claret and blue.
As statistics website Squawka reveals, in his 30 games last season, Westwood created 33 chances for his team-mates with an impressive passing accuracy of 86% and has continued in the same vein this season.
Lambert consistently praises Westwood's passing ability, but his work rate and attitude have contributed to a regular spot in the Villa side.
Fabian Delph has taken the 2013/14 Premier League by storm. The combative midfielder starred for Villa during the opening three fixtures and was subsequently awarded the club's Player of the Month award for August.
Tenacious in the tackle, confident with the ball and with an engine that will see him work tirelessly for 90 minutes, Bradford-born Delph looks well on his way to becoming one of this season's finest midfielders.
Karim El Ahmadi
Lambert has kept the faith with Karim El Ahmadi, and the Villa boss is now starting to reap the benefits.
The Egyptian joined the Midlands club at the start of the 2012/13 campaign and started his Villa career in impressive fashion following a number of quality displays in the middle of the park.
El Ahmadi then left Villa to play in the African Cup of Nations and struggled to regain form upon his return as he watched from the sidelines.
Three effective performances this season have the Egyptian back on Lambert's radar, with the boss telling Aston Villa's Paul Brown that he is starting to see the player he knew he signed.
Karim came out at the start of the season and did really well.
Then we lost him to the African Nations and he found it hard to come back in after that.
He has come back from pre-season and he's been the player I thought he could be.
As the saying goes: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Lambert is sure to play Andreas Weimann wide on the right against Newcastle in what is a tried and tested formation.
The tricky Austrian featured heavily in that position for Villa throughout last season and, as well as chipping in with seven league goals himself, the 22-year-old also contributed heavily in assisting Christian Benteke to score 19 league goals.
Along with Guzan, Benteke will be one of the first names on the team sheet.
The Belgian was the saviour of the club last season. If it wasn't for his 19 league goals then the claret and blue outfit would surely be playing in England's second tier of football this year.
The 22-year-old has continued where he left off last season by scoring three goals in three games and currently sits joint top of the goalscorers' table along with Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge and Arsenal's Olivier Giroud.
This weekend's opponents Newcastle have scored just one goal this season whilst conceding four—something Benteke will look to take advantage of as he leads Villa's line.
Villa's one club man, who surpassed Dwight Yorke as their all-time Premier League top scorer last season, will be another "easy pick" for Lambert.
Agbonlahor was comfortably the best player on the pitch against Arsenal as he ran the Gunners' defence ragged, winning two penalties.
The former forward, who now thrives on the left wing, also set up Benteke for Villa's goal at Stamford Bridge.
And although he was relatively quiet against Liverpool, Lambert will look for Agbonlahor to unlock the visiting defence on Saturday with his raw pace and much-improved delivery from out wide.