Confirmed line-ups: Barcelona target omitted by Newcastle for Aston Villa clash

By Coral Barry

Rafael Benitez has kept faith with the same side that beat Crystal Palace last weekend in the crucial showdown with Aston Villa.

The Newcastle boss seems to have finally settled on his starting eleven after being charged with saving the club from relegation when he was appointed in March.

Matchwinner Andros Townsend keeps his place after a wonderful free-kick against Palace last Saturday ensured the Magpies came away with three precious points.

The result lifted Newcastle out of the relegation zone for the first time since February and has put the Magpies back in contention to preserve their Premier League status.

It emerged during the week that Spanish giants Barcelona are plotting a move for Ayoze Perez, but the 22-year-old has been named on the relegation-battlers’ bench.

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Despite the interest from one of Europe’s biggest clubs, Perez has struggled in recent weeks under new coach, Benitez and has been overlooked in favour of Georginio Wijnaldum for the second game running.

Top scorer Wijnaldum keeps his place in the team after being restored the starting line-up in the Palace fixture.

The Magpies will be looking to put together consecutive league wins for the first time since December and put the pressure back on 18th-placed Sunderland, who have a game in hand over Newcastle.

In other Newcastle news, a key man has revealed how Benitez has turned the club’s fortunes around.