Having played out a six-goal friendly in Pennsylvania, two teams that surpassed expectations last season will reconvene on Tyneside, where Villa last won a top-flight fixture back in 2005.
Taking less than two years to turn a team struggling for their Premier League survival into Champions League qualifiers represents a significant feat for Newcastle United coach Eddie Howe, who led the Magpies to a fourth-place finish in the top flight last term.
Howe only took charge at St James’ Park after this week’s opposite number Unai Emery withdrew at the last minute, but having got the best out of his squad ever since, the ex-Bournemouth boss has now added Milan midfield maestro Sandro Tonali and ex-Leicester City winger Harvey Barnes to his options for 2023-24.
Preparations for a season in which they make a long-awaited return to the Champions League have been promising, as Newcastle arrived in America for last month’s Premier League Summer Series having already posted a couple of pre-season wins over Gateshead and Rangers.
While Stateside, the Magpies met Aston Villa for the first time since the West Midlands side stormed to a 3-0 win at Villa Park late last season, and after drawing 3-3 with Emery’s side, a further draw versus Chelsea was followed by a 2-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion.
On their return to home turf, Newcastle then saw off Serie A side Fiorentina and La Liga’s Villarreal without conceding a goal, tuning up for Saturday’s clash with Villa in ideal style.
The North East giants are also unbeaten in their last 14 Premier League home games against their Claret-and-Blue counterparts from Birmingham, winning on eight occasions during that streak, so history is certainly on their side before kickoff.
Preview: Newcastle vs. Aston Villa – prediction, team news, lineups
While Aston Villa unexpectedly handed Newcastle a three-goal defeat at Villa Park in April, they have not won back-to-back Premier League matches against the Tyneside club since doing the double over them back in 2004-05.
Precedent further weighs against the Villans this weekend when considering they have lost their opening league fixture in each of the last two seasons – versus promoted sides on both occasions (Watford in 2021-22 and Bournemouth last year).
Villa have not lost their league opener in three consecutive campaigns since the late 1960s, though, and Unai Emery’s current side are understandably confident about keeping that record intact.
In 2023, only Manchester City have picked up more Premier League points and wins than Aston Villa (43 and 13 respectively), who accrued only 41 points in the whole of 2022; demonstrating the scale of the club’s revival since their Basque boss strode into Birmingham at the end of last year.
They are now looking forward to a Europa Conference League playoff against either Hibernian or Luzern, having posted their best league finish for over a decade, and the squad which travelled to the United States included new recruits with experience at the highest level: Youri Tielemans, Pau Torres and club-record signing Moussa Diaby.
Villa’s owners clearly aim to join Newcastle in upsetting the Premier League’s established order this term, and after Emery’s men finished second in the Summer Series and then beat both Lazio and Valencia to round off pre-season, the two clubs now lock horns once again.
Newcastle United pre-season form:
Aston Villa pre-season form:
We say: Newcastle United 1-1 Aston Villa
Two teams seeking a repeat of last season’s success will have to make do with a single point from their opening league game of 2023-24, as they are too well-matched to separate. Both boast a variety of attacking threats, while Villa’s defensive restructure should help them cope with Newcastle’s potent front line.