Relegation-threatened Newcastle United will be looking for their first victory in over a month when they continue their Premier League campaign at home to European chasers Aston Villa on Friday night.
Newcastle, who drew 0-0 with West Bromwich Albion last weekend, are currently 16th in the table, just one point outside of the bottom three, while Villa currently occupy ninth position in England’s top flight.
Fulham’s form over the last few weeks has left Newcastle seriously looking over their shoulder, with the Magpies now just one point clear of the relegation zone, albeit with a game in hand on the Cottagers.
Steve Bruce’s side, who are also one point ahead of 17th-placed Brighton & Hove Albion, are currently on a four-game winless run in the Premier League, losing to Chelsea and Manchester United, in addition to drawing with Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Brom, since a home success over Southampton.
There is simply no downplaying the importance of Friday’s match as a poor result could see Newcastle end the weekend in the relegation zone, and they also have huge fixtures against Brighton and Burnley to come either side of a home game against Tottenham Hotspur at the start of April.
Bruce’s team have lost 14 of their 27 league matches this season, which is the third-worst record in the division in terms of defeats, while they have dropped points in nine of their 13 fixtures on home soil.
Newcastle have also only won one of their last seven league meetings with Villa and suffered a 2-0 defeat when they travelled to Dean Smith’s side for the reverse game earlier this season.
Villa, meanwhile, will enter Friday’s contest off the back of a goalless draw with Wolves on Saturday, meaning that they have only won one of their last five games in the Premier League.
A brilliant campaign has seen Smith’s side collect 40 points from their 26 matches, which has left them in ninth position, just three points off eighth-placed Liverpool with two matches in hand over the champions.
Villa actually have at least one game in hand over every other team in the division, while they are just six points off sixth-placed Everton, with a match spare, and will certainly be eyeing a Europa League finish.
The seven-time English champions have been impressive on their travels this term, collecting 23 points from 14 matches, which is superior to their record at Villa Park.
Friday’s clash is even more important for the Lions considering that three of their next four in the league are against Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City, while they will also face a battling Fulham on April 3.
Newcastle United Premier League form:
Aston Villa Premier League form: