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Mark Lawrenson states the obvious about his old mate Steve Bruce

4 months ago
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Steve Bruce was slavishly backed by Mark Lawrenson for a long long time.

Despite the evidence saying very much the opposite, the BBC Sport pundit blindly stating week after week what a great job the NUFC Head Coach was doing.

However, as this ongoing dismal run of two wins in eighteen developed, even Mark Lawrenson couldn’t humiliate himself any further and some time ago dumped his old mate. Starting to give a more realistic perspective and invariably predicting that Newcastle United will get beat.

Despite Newcastle United being at home and many fans and neutrals seeing tonight’s game against Aston Villa as one of NUFC’s best remaining chances of picking up a win, Marl Lawrenson states that Steve Bruce and Newcastle will be: ‘making themselves difficult to beat rather than going all-out for a win.’

After the embarrassingly negative set-up at West Brom last week, I think this is something that we all expect / fear tonight at St James Park.

Mark Lawrenson talks about this as being a match where both clubs will have a ‘cagey’ approach.

The thing is though, when you scratch below the surface, it is easy to see which club will all but certainly come out of top if we are talking about being cagey in this game, when you look at what the reality has been this season.

Newcastle have conceded 22 goals at home and only West Brom have conceded more.

Aston Villa have conceded 11 in 14 away matches, second best to only Man City (conceded 8 away from home).

Indeed, Villa’s defence have let in only 27 goals overall, the third best in the Premier League behind Man City and Chelsea.

In contrast, we have seen Newcastle go from having the seventh best defensive record in both PL seasons under Rafa, to seventh worst last season under Steve Bruce, at the moment NUFC have conceded more than all but five PL clubs.

Only one clean sheet at home for Newcastle all season and that was against Liverpool, part of a run for the scousers that shows they have failed to score in 8 of their last 13 PL games, including games against Southampton, Brighton, Everton, Fulham and Burnley.

In contrast, Villa have had 14 clean sheets so far this season including 7 away from home. When Newcastle lost 2-0 at Villa this season, it was an absolutely stroll for the home side and Steve Bruce’s team had only one effort on target.

Jack Grealish may be missing tonight but I find it very difficult to believe the visitors won’t score, probably more than one.

Dean Smith is clearly a far better manager (not difficult) than Steve Bruce and has transformed the absolute mess Bruce left for him at Aston Villa. Bruce has to try something different if Newcastle are to stand any chance tonight, you know, like scoring a goal.

Simply setting up like he did against West Brom for a goalless draw with no strikers on the pitch, is simply setting Newcastle up for a certain defeat in my opinion.

I know it goes against the grain for him but Steve Bruce must have a little bit of imagination with his team set-up and selection of players, as just thinking he will be able to rely on a clean sheet boring the way to another point for Newcastle United will come unstuck.

At least one of Carroll or Gayle has to play and there has to be some kind of plan to try and score a goal.

Only one club outside the top four have won more away matches than Villa (7) this season, the odds are very much on that total becoming 8 for the visitors unless Steve Bruce does what needs to be done.

Mark Lawrenson speaking to BBC Sport:

“Aston Villa are still missing Jack Grealish but Newcastle are worse off injury-wise, and are going to be without Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron until the start of April, after the international break.

“Both of these sides drew last time out.

“Villa against Wolves and Newcastle at West Brom – which was not exactly a thriller.

“I have a feeling this game will be cagey too.

“The Magpies need the points more, but I think they will still focus on making themselves difficult to beat rather than going all-out for a win.

“Prediction – Newcastle 1 Aston Villa 1.”

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