Georginio Wijnaldum has warned Newcastle United that their win over Crystal Palace will count for nothing if they do not get a result at Aston Villa on Saturday.
Andros Townsend’s brilliant free-kick – and a penalty save from Karl Darlow – ensured a 1-0 victory against Alan Pardew’s side which saw Newcastle climb out of the bottom three.
Rafael Benitez’s side have played a game more than Sunderland below them but head to already-relegated Villa with a formidable record, having not lost any of the last nine league encounters between the two.
Wijnaldum, however, has warned against any sort of complacency as Newcastle look to cling on to their top-flight status with just two matches left to play.
“We have got ourselves back into a better situation,” the midfielder told the Sunderland Echo. “Every game is important to us. Every point we can take is crucial at this stage.
“We have beaten Crystal Palace, and now we have to show the same mentality at Aston Villa.
“We have to focus game by game and at the end we will see where we finish. We can’t be too happy because it is about the end of the season.”
Confidence is growing at Newcastle but Villa are facing the prospect of an unwanted club record in their final home match of a dismal campaign.
Defeat on Saturday would be their 12th in a row, surpassing the tally set back in 1963, and would further incense the club’s fans, who are already planning a protest against owner Randy Lerner described as “#InTheAirOn74… A mass release of energy on the 74th minute”.
Villa came close to arresting their torrid run last week, conceding two late Troy Deeney goals to surrender a 2-1 lead at Watford, and interim boss Eric Black wants to see a similar level of effort from his players against Newcastle in order to help win back the fans.
“That’s all I think we can do,” said Black, who is expected to be replaced by former Leicester City boss Nigel Pearson in the coming weeks. “That’s what we’ve spoken about with the players.
“It’s a fantastic football club with fantastic supporters and everything that surrounds it. It’s about getting one little step, as small as it is, to getting the supporters back on side.”
Kieran Richardson (calf) is a doubt for Villa, who also have Aly Cissokho suspended after his red card against Watford. Gabriel Agbonlahor, who stepped down as captain last week, is unlikely to return.
Benitez hopes to have Vurnon Anita back from a muscle problem, meanwhile, but Daryl Janmaat (wrist) and Fabricio Coloccini (calf) are expected to miss out. Yoan Gouffran could be available after a muscle injury.
Gabriel Obertan and Sylvain Marveaux’s seasons have come to an end already, though, after they were released from their contracts on Thursday.
Key Opta Stats:
– Newcastle United have scored just 13 goals in their last 24 Premier League away games, but five of those have come in the last three away trips.
– A draw in their last Premier League away game at Anfield ended a run of nine consecutive away defeats for Newcastle and secured the Magpies their only away point in 2016 so far.
– There have been just four goals scored in the last four Premier League meetings between these two teams.
– Newcastle (W2 D2) have gone four games unbeaten in the Premier League for the first time since October-November 2014 (six unbeaten in that run under Alan Pardew).
– Andros Townsend has scored more Premier League goals for Newcastle in just 11 appearances for the club (4) than he managed for Tottenham in 50 games (3).
– Only Leicester’s N’Golo Kante has made more tackles (158) and interceptions (148) than Aston Villa’s Idrissa Gueye in the top-flight this season (134 tackles, 139 interceptions).