Date: 20th February 2017 at 12:40pm
Written by:

By Danny Wright

Newcastle will move back to the top of the Championship if they beat Aston Villa on Monday night.

Rafa Benitez’s side were leapfrogged by Brighton on Saturday when their rivals eased to a 2-0 win at Barnsley.

Monday’s game sees two of last season’s relegated clubs from the Premier League take each other on in a battle of the two halves of the table.

The Magpies looks destined to return to the Premier League, while Villa are flirting with relegation in 17th place – just six points clear of the drop zone.

Newcastle players have had a fantastic season so far but here are three key players to keep an eye on when the two sides come to blows:

Karl Darlow

The goalkeeper made a massive error against Norwich on Tuesday night.

The former Forest man miscued a clearance which gifted Cameron Jerome an easy tap-in.

The Villa game is a chance for Darlow to prove that he hasn’t been affected by the mishap and that he can still continue to do a good job for Benitez.

Benitez has given his keeper a vote of confidence ahead of the game and Darlow will be looking to repay his faith with a top performance.

Darlow has kept three clean sheets in his last five games and will be hoping to add another at St. James’ Park.

Dwight Gayle

After four games out with a hamstring injury, Gayle returned to the Newcastle squad in the draw against the Canaries.

He played 14 minutes off the bench in the stalemate and will be hoping to return to the goal-scoring form which sees him top the charts in the league

The former Crystal Palace man has 20 goals in 23 league games this season but has only scored once in 2017 due to his injury.

All eyes will be on Gayle to see if he can return to his best against Steve Bruce’s side.

Ciaran Clark

The former Aston Villa man welcomes his former side to St. James’ Park and he will be hoping to show his old employers that he made the right choice to leave the in the summer.

Clark has been a stand-out performer for Benitez this season and has proved that he can make a good defender when part of a team under good leadership.

He has made 28 appearances for Newcastle in all competitions this season and will more than certainly have something to prove.

The Irish international, alongside Darlow, will be hopeful of shutting out an Aston Villa attack which has scored just four goals in 2017.

In other Newcastle news, report details latest on talks with Toon 27-year-old.

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