Way back in August, anyone punting on Newcastle United to break into the Premier League’s hallowed top four would have been referred to the men in white coats, yet here we are in February and the Toon Army sit fifth, only three points off fourth-placed Chelsea.
And as if things couldn’t get better, top scorer Demba Ba is available after Senegal’s wretched display in the Africa Cup of Nations, as is new £10 million striker Papiss Cisse.
The 26-year-old forward is the latest to inherit the Geordies’ famous number nine jersey and if he can replicate his form for Freiburg – he scored 37 goals in 65 Bundesliga games – then the dream of Europe could be a very real possibility.
French midfielder Yohan Cabaye is missing for Alan Pardew’s side, serving the second of a three-match ban, but Newcastle are well-placed at 21/20 with bwin to register their 12th win of this campaign.
The visitors, Aston Villa, are 13/5 in bwin’s 3way football betting market and they will certainly be hoping for better luck than in last year’s 6-0 demolition on Tyneside.
Villa could be without Gabriel Agbonlahor, Marc Albrighton and James Collins, but they will be confident of maintaining their fine recent away form.
The Villans are five matches unbeaten on their travels in the league and possess their own potent strikeforce with Darren Bent and Robbie Keane both on form for the Midlands side.
The last time Villa beat Newcastle at St. James’ Park was back in 2005 when they triumphed 3-0 in a match best remembered for Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer exchanging handbags.
The Villans are 50/1 with bwin to repeat that score. Any new customer wishing to use their free £25 bet would collect a whopping £1,275 for that outcome.
Having said that, Villa under Alex McLeish prefer function over flair, as demonstrated by their ten draws already this season – the most in the Premier League.
Therefore a 2-1 away win looks an excellent choice, given that Newcastle have only failed to score in three home matches this season, while Villa have a penchant for lightning quick counter-attacking football.
Punters who back this outcome with their free £25 bet would collect £262.50 if Villa emerge with a 2-1 away victory.
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