Newcastle United face a difficult task tonight as they take on Aston Villa in the Premier League - kick-off is at 8:15pm live on TNT Sports.
Coming off the back of a 2-0 win over Fulham in the FA Cup, Newcastle should be starting to grow some confidence back after a testing run at the end of 2023, but they come up against Unai Emery's Aston Villa who currently occupy fourth spot on the Premier League.
It's not going to be an easy night for Eddie Howe's men at Villa Park and with just a couple of days rest since the Fulham game, our old friend fatigue might be in attendance too.
Add to that the added spice of Villa looking for vengeance after the opening game of the season and we're looking at a very trying night.
Paul Merson is of the same opinion and he said in his prediction for Sportskeeda that he feels that if Newcastle lose this one then they can kiss their top-four hopes goodbye.
"Newcastle United absolutely have to win this game if they want to have any chance of making it into the Premier League top four. If they lose, it's completely and utterly out of the question.
"Villa, on the other hand, are a force to be reckoned with at home and will start to feel the pressure in the coming weeks as expectations are naturally increasing after their strong start to the season. This is a dangerous game that will test their credentials, but Newcastle will come out and play, which will play into their hands.
"Prediction: Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle United"
So Merse believes that our top four aspirations will end tonight. We'd say they ended weeks ago, but Eddie Howe still believes we can close the gap, and as long as he and the players believe, there's is a chance - I mean, obviously, there will come a point where it's not mathematically possible, but you know what we mean.
Part of me thinks Merse is being kind with his prediction, there's a really bad feeling in my stomach this morning, but that could just be the undercooked Wagyu burger from last night.
It's so hard to feel confident when there's such a black cloud hanging over the club right now. It's clearly affecting the fans, and you have to wonder if it's affecting the players too. All these stories about players leaving can't be helping.
That being said, tonight would be the perfect opportunity for the lads to show their commitment and their passion and absolutely batter Villa.
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