By Aidan Elder | Chief sports writer
Newcastle v Aston Villa
Sunday 4pm – St. James’s Park
Just two games into the new season and optimism around Villa Park is in shorter supply than tasteful interior design around the Stephen Ireland household. A convincing win for Aston Villa over Tranmere during the week eased the pain, but defeat to West Ham and then a whupping at the hands of Everton have heaped the pressure on Paul Lambert and surely cut short his honeymoon period by several weeks.
It’s not just the results that are the problem for Villa, it’s the players they’re relying on to turn it around. There’s no doubting their ability, but there’s also no doubting their ability to look entirely disinterested. At the moment, they look more like Championship contenders than a team aspiring to make progress towards the Champions League. Paul Lambert has faced a few challenges in his managerial career, but the circumstances of this one will test his acumen.
Newcastle have survived the transfer window with most of their crown jewels still at the club and they’re in good stead to continue the progress of last season. They were soundly beaten at the Bridge, but given how Chelsea have started the season, that’s not as embarrassing as it would have been last season.
The Premier League is a very open league and you can never truly rule out any team’s chances of victory, but in the case of Aston Villa, you might be willing to make an exception. Newcastle have the better team, are playing better football and have the support of thousands of shirtless Geordies to rely upon. They look the likely winners in this one.
The ‘I don’t like giving predictions’ prediction: Newcastle 2-1 at 13/2