The second game of the season takes place on Saturday night against Aston Villa at St. James’ Park on Saturday evening.
After last week’s great opener against Bolton, hopes are high on Tyneside that Newcastle can start their campaign with two wins in a row for the first time in 10 seasons.
It just so happens that the in 1997-1998 season, Newcastle’s second successive win was against Aston Villa, after beating Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 in Shay Given’s debut at St. James’ Park.
Will history repeat itself? – we think so.
Martin O’Neil and Sam Allardyce – tough game coming up but a Newcastle victory is probable
Villa Manager Martin O’Neill has surprisingly not made many captures in the transfer market this summer bringing in only West Ham United duo Marlon Harewood and Nigel Reo-Coker to his squad. In January he did buy Ashley Young, John Carew and Phillip Bardsley.
Martin O’Neill is also pleased to have landed Liverpool goalkeeper Scott Carson on a season-long loan, but does not expect to ever be able to sign the 21-year-old on a permanent basis. Liverpool have made it very clear they don’t want to sell Scott â€“ but O’Neil is willing to have Carson in goal for him this season. Where that leaves their other goalkeepers Sorenson and Taylor is questionable.
The former Leeds United goalkeeper spent last season on loan with Charlton Athletic and O’Neill thinks he has what it takes to be one of the best keepers in the Premier League.
The Villa had a close game last week at home against Liverpool and came out 2-1 losers in a close game. O’Neil told the Aston Villa web-site:
“We got ourselves back in the game after they took the lead,”
“We tried to play strongly against a very fine side, but didn’t quite have real self belief. I think I have more belief in the team than they have.â€
“We’re a young side. We’re in the throes of building a team, but we don’t want to take too long about it.”
O’Neill, always the optimist, is confident his team can revert to the form that closed last season strong on the road, where Villa claimed 11 of a possible 15 points in their final five matches.
Martin went on:
“There is no doubt about it, playing away from home is different from playing at home, where the onus is on you to go and attack,”
“But I think the bit of form we showed at the back-end of last season will give us confidence away from home.”
“The confidence has not been knocked by the defeat against Liverpool.”
There’s no doubt it should be a more difficult game for Newcastle than Bolton â€“ but there again we didn’t expect Bolton to collapse under phenomenal pressure from the new Newcastle in the first hectic and brilliant 45 minutes did we?
This is what Big Sam had to say yesterday:
â€œMy focus, and that of Nigel Pearson, has been on the playersâ€™ concentration out of possession.”
“Hopefully, weâ€™ve learned a big lesson from last Saturdayâ€™s game.â€
â€œWhat we did for their goal was our own fault. It came a long way from our corner and that sort of thing becomes very, very costly.â€
â€œFortunately, this time it didnâ€™t hurt us, but the next time it will. Weâ€™ve got to cut that sort of ragged defending out.”
“Not just from defenders, but from midfielders on the edge of the box.â€
Sam is right and seems determined to right Newcastle of their poor defensive tendencies of the last several seasons. The goal we conceded last week was not good when we were caught short at the back when Bolton attacked quickly from a Newcastle corner. Those things must be eradicated this season and the sooner the better.
Sam told the Official Newcastle web-site this morning:
“I hope we don’t waste our excellent start,”
“It’s only one game and I’ve told the lads not to get carried away.â€
“Everyone will be coming to St.James’ Park expecting us to win but unfortunately that’s not how it works.â€
“We have to be professional and we are fully aware of what Aston Villa have to offer.â€
“We have to nullify their strengths and expose their weaknesses, like we did so well at Bolton last week.”
Sam has been working with his squad this week in a bid to cut out goals such as the one conceded at Bolton as Sam went on:
“We have talked about that goal and are working on it and if we can get that right defensively we will be OK,”
“We have to use our goalscoring ability at one end and then if someone is going to score against us at the other it’s going to have to be special.”
Newcastle stormed to a 3-1 victory at St. James’ Park last season as James Milner and Dyer scored in the first seven minutes and Villa has not won at Newcastle since a 3-0 rout in the 2003-04 season in which three Newcastle players were sent off and Barry converted twice from the spot in the second half.
We would expect the team to be little changed from that which easily defeated Bolton last week but would expect Enrique, Cacapa and Owen to be introduced as substitutes sometime in the second half, depending how the game is going.
But it’s going to be a very exciting time at St. James’ and anything less than a win will be a disappointment. Somehow we think we’ll beat Villa by the same score as Bolton, 3-1, although we’d be very pleased if we can keep a clean sheet this time.
What do you think.
Let us know â€“ comments always welcome.