There are two key factors at play tonight at St James Park, according to Danny Higginbotham.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the pundit has identified Newcastle biggest strength and Villa’s biggest weakness this season.
Danny Higginbotham says that Jonjo Shelvey ‘has been fantastic’ for Newcastle this year and not many would disagree with that.
Whilst for tonight’s opponents, Higginbotham thinks Mile Jedinak is crucial to their chances.
Shelvey’s attributes are plain to see for both Newcastle fans and neutrals but Jedinak’s are in a different way, if you believe the Sky Sports pundit.
The Villa midfielder has been out through injury and could return tonight, with Danny Higginbotham claiming Aston Villa have been wide open without him.
He may have a point.
With Jedinak in the team, Villa have played 20 Championship games, winning seven and losing five, in his absence they have played 11 this season and won only one, whilst losing six.
Maybe worth keeping an eye on whether the former Palace player makes it into the team Steve Bruce selects.
Danny Higginbotham talking to Sky Sports:
Newcastle’s biggest strength –
“Jonjo Shelvey has been fantastic this season.
“He was missed when out during his suspension and he brings so much from the midfield area.
“You have either Isaac Hayden or Jack Colback as the sitting midfielder and that gives Shelvey the licence to drive forward and show what he can do in the final third.
“His decision making is absolutely spot on and his long distance passing as well.
“He’s quite prepared to drop deep and play the quarter-back role at times – but because he has the insurance of a Colback or Hayden behind him, he can also get in the right place at the right time to score goals.
“He is a very important player for Newcastle and it will be interesting to see how Villa deal with him.”
Aston Villa’s biggest weakness –
“The problem they (Villa) are having in midfield area is that there’s no real defensive midfielder (with Mile Jedinak missing) who is going to sit there and protect that back four.
“It’s something that has been quite apparent with Aston Villa recently. They’re trying to score more goals and get on the front foot but leaving themselves a little bit exposed at the back.
“Henri Lansbury and Conor Hourihane are two of the best midfielders in the Championship but the problem is that neither is defensively-minded and Aston Vila are starting to be open to the counter-attack.
“That’s where I think the return of Mile Jedinak could be key for them.”