Aston Villa and Newcastle come into this one off the back of two creditable draws away to Everton and QPR respectively. Both McLeish and Pardew will be hopeful of maintaining their decent starts to the season, with the defensive rigidity of the Newcastle back four a particularly impressive feature of the Magpies opening fixtures.
McLeish will have an almost full squad of players to choose from with only Carlos Cuellar (Knee), Emile Heskey (Hamstring) and new signing Jermaine Jenas (Thigh) certain to miss out.
Indeed the loan signing of Jenas is a sure sign of the improvements McLeish has embarked on making at Villa Park, there is a certain feel good factor creeping in.
The Spurs loanee has alluded to the potential of this squad of players and the pulling power of the club in luring players of his stature to the Birmingham side “Okay, they had a bit of a tough season last year but I’ve looked at the players they’ve already got here, the likes of Darren, Gabby, and Charles as well. It is an attacking team and I’m very confident we can do things this year.” The Villa faithful will be hopeful such optimism is vindicated.
Newcastle also have few injury worries with Mike Williamson (Ankle), new signing Haris Vuckic (Hand) and Hatem Ben Arfa (Ankle) all definitely out.
Pardew will be hopeful the acrimonious loss of Joey Barton does not prove detrimental in the long run and he will look to the likes of Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye to anchor the midfield in his absence.
Leon Best has been in impressive form recently but the Toon Army should be disappointed with Demba Ba’s contribution so far this season and will hope for better from the Senegalese.
This will be a tight encounter with Newcastle’s defence looking to cancel out the flair and pace of the Villa attack, a draw the likely outcome.
Match Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Newcastle United
Betting Odds: Aston Villa 1.91 (Bet 365) Draw 3.4 (Bet 365) Newcastle United 4.2 (Bet 365)