Bent and Keane, but enough to stop Newcastle?
Newcastle v Aston Villa | 13:30 - Live on Sky Sports 1
Alan Pardew welcomes back his star striker Demba Ba after his trip to the African Cup of Nations and he brings with him his £10m Senegalese team mate Papiss Cisse.
The Geordies haven't missed Ba too much though, winning four of their last six league matches. The 15 goal hit-man should still take his place in the starting line-up and can be backed at 9/2 to open the scoring while Cisse is 5/1 to break the deadlock on his debut.
The match betting for this dinner time offering sees the hosts installed as 11/10 favourites. It is no surprise really if you consider the recent history between Newcastle and Villa. The Toon are unbeaten in their last five home matches against them and last season thrashed the Villans 6-0 ( Correct score 250/1). The scorers that day, Carroll, Nolan and Barton, may have all departed St James' Park, but that hasn't stopped United challenging at the top end of the table. Indeed their 2-0 win at Blackburn in midweek pushed them up to fifth in the table.
The visiting Villans can be backed at 13/5 to triumph on Tyneside, something they haven't managed since 2005.
Gabriel Agbonlahor (8.1 first scorer) is a major fitness doubt for the visitors as back and hamstring spasms continue to hamper him, however Robbie Keane (15/2) has been playing very well in his recent starts and should again support Darren Bent.
That man Bent has scored in the club's last three league matches and has reached 100 Premier League goals in 226 games, the ninth quickest player to do so. The former Sunderland striker would love to grab a goal to silence the Geordies, and can be backed at 11/2 to notch first and 6/4 to score anytime.
Despite the reservations about the appointment of Alex McLeish, the ex-Birmingham manager seems to be slowly, very slowly, winning over the Villa faithful. That is mainly because of his team's record away from Villa Park lately. Unbeaten in five league games on the road, it seems that McLeish's men prefer counter attacking play.
My recommendation for this game is for a 1-1 draw, priced at 6/1. Both teams will go into this one with a positive attitude and on their day Villa are a decent side. While I don't think they'll have enough to overcome a confident home team, they should have enough to earn a draw.