Paul Merson has a history when it comes to trying to back up Aston Villa when it comes to any conflict between the West Midlands club and Newcastle United.
This weekend’s game for some time has had the look of a real point of ‘debate’ and with Paul Merson having spent four years at Villa as a player, he is always keen to fight the corner of his Villa fans.
Whilst Aston Villa knew they were relegated a considerable time ago, the fact that Newcastle were also struggling meant that this final away match of the season was always going to see the issues of the 2009 encounter coming to the fore.
Aston Villa fans in recent days (read HERE) have made clear in recent days that many of them would love it just as much, or even more so, if Newcastle went down again.
As recently as February, Paul Merson was trotting out the same lame comments as to why Aston Villa are a ‘bigger’ club than Newcastle.
Paul Merson February 2016:
“Aston Villa are going to be the biggest club of the Premier League era to go down.
“People say Newcastle are a big club and they went down. They’re not as big as Villa. They haven’t won the European Cup. They haven’t won anything in 50-odd years!
“When I played for Villa we got 40,000 every week. You couldn’t buy a ticket.”
Well you can certainly buy a ticket for Villa these days, if you are Villa fan!
Newcastle quickly sold out their 3,000 tickets allocation for Saturday but despite Villa still having over 15,000 unsold tickets at the end of last week, they refused to make any more available to Newcastle fans.
Turning to the actual football this weekend, Paul Merson has made his predictions (or should we say hopes?!!!) of what will happen.
Coming up with a combination of ‘predictions’ that would mean almost certain relegation for Newcastle, Merson has predicted that Sunderland will beat Chelsea 2-1 – this is despite Chelsea looking at their very best in the second half fightback against Spurs on Monday night and the fact that Hiddink’s team have only lost two of their last 19 Premier League matches.
When it comes to Newcastle United’s hopes, Paul Merson has chosen to minimise how terrible Villa are (a team who have lost all of their last 11 matches and conceded 30 goals), saying ‘I know Villa haven’t been great’ – surely understatement of the millenium!
Whilst with Newcastle, Merson chooses to ignore the fact that the last four matches we have all seen a much different United as Rafa Benitez has worked his magic and got them playing as a team, with real commitment.
Yes we know Newcastle’s away form has been shocking this season but the fightback at Liverpool from two goals down, was a better reflection of the place United are at now.
A major change under Rafa has also been the fact that whereas United couldn’t buy a goal under McClaren, they have scored in all of their last six matches, scoring 11 in the process.
Two or more against Villa should almost certainly be enough but Paul Merson has gone for a 1-1 draw, which paired with his Sunderland win prediction, would leave Newcastle a point behind and a far worse goal difference than Sunderland, with them, also having a game in hand.
A dream scenario maybe for Merson and the Villa/Sunderland fans but a nightmare one for Newcastle supporters.
Paul Merson talking to Sky Sports:
“I think there is more of a twist than people think in this.
“Newcastle are odds of 1/2 here – they have taken one point away from home in 2016, how can you justify being 1/2?
“I know Villa haven’t been great, but you can’t be backing a team at 1/2 away from home with a record like that.
“I’m going 1-1 here, because Newcastle will have to come out and have a go, and Villa will cause a few problems.
“Newcastle went down at Villa in 2009 and will be out for revenge but the Villa fans won’t want to lie down either.
“I just think people see this as nailed on, but I don’t.”