By Coral Barry
Paul Merson believes Newcastle’s survival bid will be stalled when they pay a visit to Aston Villa on Saturday.
The Magpies are nailed on favourites to follow up their 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace last weekend with another win, but Merson has suggested Newcastle will not come away with all three points from Villa Park.
Rafael Benitez’s team are a point above the relegation zone and Newcastle will be desperate to grab another victory and take another huge step towards safety.
A win would be the first time since December that Newcastle have managed successive league victories and Merson believes the Magpies’ terrible away record in 2016 is an indicator that they will again struggle against Villa.
“I think there’s more of a twist than people think in this,” said Merson writing in his Sky Sports column. “Newcastle are odds of 1/2 here. They’ve 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.”
Newcastle travel to Villa Park in their penultimate game of the season, knowing a win is a must if they are to maintain the gap between them and 18th-placed Sunderland.
The Black Cats, as well as fellow relegation-battlers Norwich, have a game in hand over Newcastle and Benitez’s side will believe adding another win to the board would put them in the driving seat for the remainder of the season.
In other Newcastle news, a key player has described how Benitez has turned the club around in such a small space of time.