Villa and Newcastle in basement battle

LONDON - While Manchester United and title rivals Manchester City resume their slugfest for Premier League silverware, Aston Villa and Newcastle United meet on Tuesday in a relegation dogfight that neither would have expected to be embroiled in.
  France midfielder Moussa Sissoko (left), who signed for Newcastle United from Toulouse could make his debut against Aston Villa Tuesday night. Net photo
France midfielder Moussa Sissoko (left), who signed for Newcastle United from Toulouse could make his debut against Aston Villa Tuesday night. Net photo

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Aston Villa  vs   Newcastle    21:45 SS5
QPR               vs   Man City     21:45 SS3
Stoke City    vs      Wigan
Sunderland  vs   Swansea City    

LONDON - While Manchester United and title rivals Manchester City resume their slugfest for Premier League silverware, Aston Villa and Newcastle United meet on Tuesday in a relegation dogfight that neither would have expected to be embroiled in.

Both are mired in deep trouble and staring anxiously downwards at the clubs behind them. For beleaguered managers Paul Lambert and Alan Pardew, a victory cannot come soon enough.

Villa languish one place above the drop zone, a point ahead of Reading, after one win from their last nine league games. Newcastle sit one spot above Villa and have managed just two wins in their last 14.

Two Cup exits to lower division opponents in the space of a week has left Villa’s already shredded confidence in tatters.

Scot Lambert was tempted away from Premier League rivals Norwich City during the close season to help revive Villa’s fortunes after a 16th place finish last season.

But the Midlands club struggled from the off, defeat in their first two games setting the tone for a first half of the season that reached a low in late December with an embarrassing 8-0 defeat at Chelsea, followed by a 4-0 home loss to Tottenham Hotspur and a 3-0 reverse against Wigan Athletic.

That was until this week when Villa’s hopes of a Wembley Capital One (League) Cup final appearance were extinguished by fourth-tier Bradford City, followed by an FA Cup defeat at Championship (second division) Millwall.

Newcastle also had high expectations after an unexpected fifth place last season.

But the northeast club, hindered by injuries to key players like Hatem Ben Arfa, have struggled. Top scorer Demba Ba’s departure for Chelsea earlier this month has also left a shortage of firepower, with the onus now on Papiss Cisse to consistently deliver.

ENERGISE

Pardew’s remedy has been to look across the English Channel to France, adding to the Gallic flavour at Newcastle by signing Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haïdara and Moussa Sissoko.

“It was obvious last weekend against Reading (2-1 home defeat) that we needed to make changes very, very quickly and we have done that,” Pardew said.

“The players we have brought in - without giving too much away - will add some pace to our team, some energy and energise some of the players we already have.”

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