Villa v Newcastle preview: Lambert recalls Toon turning point
At the time it was the last result Villa needed. But Newcastle's most recent visit to Villa Park served as something of a turning point for Paul Lambert's young side.
While a miserable January - which included double cup heartache against Bradford and Millwall - ended with a 2-1 defeat to the Magpies, Villa's second-half display provided a flicker of light that would help them succeed on the road to top-flight survival.
The performance was acknowledged in the form of a standing ovation from the claret and blue faithful and Lambert's team would go on to win six and draw three of their final 14 games.
Whereas Villa headed into last season's home clash against Alan Pardew's side on the back of some chastening experiences, the landscape is much brighter this time around.
There is extra verve in the camp following an early-season triple-header which saw Villa go toe-to-toe with some of the Barclays Premier League's big guns.
Lambert remembers the last meeting with Newcastle vividly but knows his team are a much different proposition nine months on.
"The crowd were incredible that night," said the Villa boss.
"They stayed right until the end of the game and I think the lads got a standing ovation for the way they did it in the second half.
"But we're a different team from that now. There's a lot of confidence and ability in the group, which is great.
"And I think the players have got the belief that they can get into games and try to win them."
Villa's points total perhaps does not reflect the overall quality of their performances against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.
Nevertheless, Lambert and his players are looking to channel the positives from that tough opening week from which Villa could have emerged with greater rewards.
The manager has been impressed with the efforts of his squad as they prepare to return to action following a two-and-a-half week hiatus.
"We've taken a lot of confidence from the first three games," he said.
"Sometimes you can walk out of a game thinking you deserved to be beaten but against Chelsea and Liverpool I don't think we deserved to lose.
"We played really well at Stamford Bridge and particularly in the second half against Liverpool I thought we deserved something.
"You can take that confidence from it because the way we played was really positive. If we keep doing that and keep that belief in what we're doing we'll be okay.
"I've seen that this week in training. I haven't had to say much because it's been that high level. We just have to take that into Saturday."
Now Lambert is urging his players to maintain that high level against all opponents - not just the top-four contenders.
"We've got to test ourselves against everyone we play, whether they are a top four side or whoever. Newcastle are a huge football club and Alan has done a great job up there," the Villa chief added.
"They've got some really top players and this is a tough game. But we are certainly playing really well at the moment and with a lot of confidence so we're ready for this one."
Villa v Newcastle
Tickets are still available.
Contact 0800 612 0970, pop into Villa Village or New Street or buy online.
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Pre-match show - watch in full
Villa have a clean bill of health going into the clash against Newcastle.
Nathan Baker has shaken off the ankle injury suffered in the opening day victory at Arsenal.
Libor Kozak is in line for his debut after joining from Italian side Lazio on transfer deadline day.
Newcastle have Cheick Tiote and Steven Taylor back from injury and suspension respectively.
However, Jonas Gutierrez [knee] and Gabriel Obertan [hamstring] are expected to miss out.
Villa will be wearing their traditional home kit of claret and blue.
BetBright matchday odds:
Villa to win - 6/5
There's more summer fun in store ahead of Villa's clash with Newcastle as B6 hosts another family funday.
Following on from the successes of the fundays before Malaga and Liverpool, another one is set to take place before the Barclays Premier League match with the Magpies.
Enjoy the build-up to the game by checking out a host of free activities in the Villa Park Indoor Academy from midday.
The fun activities include assault course, crazy golf, laser chaser, pillow bash, cash grabber, side stalls, giant inflatable darts and rodeo bull.
Mascots Hercules and Bella will be coming along too!
We are also going to be supporting a cycling initiative called '7 in 7' raising funds for 'Help Harry Help Others'.
As part of this, three stationary bikes will be in the Indoor Academy where people will be able to make a donation based on miles rode.
Disabled entrance access at the front - or on the road side - of the Indoor Academy.
SUN GOALS SHOOT OUT
Join the Sun+ Goals shoot out at Villa Village this Saturday from 1pm.
The fastest shot wins tickets to the Villa v Man City game and gets on pitch for a penalty shoot-out at half time.
Villa can boast a large range thanks to our new deal with Carlsberg.
We have Carlsberg through to San Miguel, along with the newly-introduced cider Somersby which is going down a storm across the UK.
We can also offer a 500ml plastic bottle on the concourses, something that we haven't been able to do for the last three seasons.
We are also delighted to announce that our official crisps are now Walkers.
We also have some great deals for the game with Liverpool.
The Pukka Pie and Carlsberg pint deal is located in the specific-branded Carlsberg units at each level of the Holte End, the North Stand, Trinity Lower and Upper aswell as Doug Ellis Lower. It comes at a price of £6.50.
The offer in the Family Area especially for our young fans and includes mini hot dog, chips and soft drink or chicken nuggets, chips and soft drink for a price of £4.
All around the stadium you can pick up two packets of Walkers for just £2.
The Snooty Pig offer is a hot roast pork bap with stuffing and apple sauce for £4.50 and it's available in Holte Lower and Trinity Lower.
Villa have beaten Newcastle 51 times in the league, while the Magpies have won 65 and the two sides have played out 32 draws.
Paul Lambert's team have scored four goals from 11 shots on target this term.
New Villa signing Libor Kozak was the top scorer in last season's Europa League, netting 10 times in 11 matches for Lazio.
Newcastle are unbeaten in their last four league meetings with Villa. However, Villa have scored in each of those games.
The claret and blues have won one and lost three of their last five home games.
The Magpies have won just two of their last 21 top-flight matches on the road.