Rafa Benitez has fan protests on his mind and hopes that they don’t help derail Newcastle United’s hopes.

On this occasion it isn’t Newcastle fans he has to worry about, all 3,000 official United supporters and those forced into subversive activity buying tickets in the away end, will all be giving Rafa and his players their maximum support.

Instead it is the planned fan protests by Villa supporters that makes Rafa Benitez think they could help push things in one of two directions.

The United boss thinks that off the pitch activity as this can either help or hinder a team and with Villa’s players having looked abysmal for most of the season, he hopes there won’t be a spark today that inspires the home players and prevents Aston Villa making it 12 defeats in a row.

The Aston Villa fans have a march planned before the game which ends outside the directors entrance, whilst during the game a 74th minute protest is also planned.

Hopefully Newcastle United will get on top lot early and have the Villa fans imploding long before that 74 minutes mark.

Villa’s players showed belated signs of life when taking the lead twice at Watford last week but then reverted to type with two injury time goals handing the Hornets the points.

With 30 goals conceded in the last 11 Premier League games, Newcastle must aim for that three goal average that Villa have been conceding, just as a bit of insurance against any unwelcome surprises at the other end…

Rafa Benitez:

“The mood is very positive, everybody training well and has the right mentality to approach a difficult game at Aston Villa. The players believe that we can do well and the way they are working is the key to moving forward.

Aston Villa are a good team but they are in a bad position because they have lost confidence.

“They have some good players so for us the main thing is to be sure that we keep playing at our level – if we do that I am confident that we will win.

“I don’t see an easy game, Villa will play to win because they are professionals. It’s not fair for a manager to comment on the weaknesses of the opposing team.

“You saw at Watford that their players are still trying, but they are where they are because they have made mistakes and we are the same.

“I know something will happen (Villa fans protesting) but we cannot change these things so we have to concentrate on our game and not let it change that.

“Sometimes it’s good because it makes their players nervous but sometimes it’s bad because it can make them perform better.

“I think it will go down to the final day, obviously we have to win but so do the other teams. Even if we win at the weekend and the other teams don’t, they still have a game in hand so I think it will go right to the end.

“We cannot change what (other teams) will do, the only thing we can do is try to get three points in our games.”