By Jonty Banks

12th Apr, 2023 | 8:10pm

Leander Dendoncker to start in Unai Emery surprise call - Aston Villa predicted XI v Newcastle

Although Unai Emery will be reluctant to make wholesale changes to his Aston Villa starting line-up against Newcastle this Saturday (15 April), he is still expected to tinker with a couple of his personnel.

The Villans arrive into the clash against the Champions League-chasing Magpies on the back of five wins from their last six Premier League outings, which has left the club in sixth position with eight games of the season remaining.

However, Villa face a tough test on Saturday lunchtime as they host a Newcastle side who arrive on the back of three consecutive wins.

In goal, Emi Martinez will look to build on his clean sheet against Nottingham Forest, which saw the Argentine make two key saves, complete two punches, one high claim and complete 90% of his 40 passes. [SofaScore]

Considering Aston Villa have recorded four clean sheets from their last six outings in the Premier League are haven’t conceded a goal from open play at Villa Park since mid-February, it would be foolish for Emery to make any changes in defence.

Although the fully fit Diego Carlos will be chomping at the bit for game time, Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings should remain in the heart of the defence, while Ashley Young starts at right-back.

Emery will be hoping Alex Moreno can replicate his performance against Steve Cooper’s side, which included a tally of eight ground duels won from 13 attempts and a total of four tackles.

In midfield is where we expect Emery to make his first change, with Leander Dendoncker being brought into the starting XI for extra defensive security at the expense of Jacob Ramsey.

Ramsey, who failed to take a single shot on goals or provide a cross from his wide midfield role against Nottingham Forest, is expected to be a surprise exclusion, which should allow John McGinn to play on the right side of Emery’s midfield four and provide extra defensive cover against the pace Allan Saint-Maximin.

Dendoncker and Douglas Luiz are therefore expected to be Emery’s central midfield pair, with Emi Buendia, who recorded his first assist of the season last time out, starting on the left.

In attack, Ollie Watkins will look to continue his electric form in front of goal, which has included a run of nine goals from his last 11 Premier League outings, while Bertrand Traore is expected to be given his first start since returning from his loan spell in January.

After Leon Bailey picked up a hamstring injury in the early exchanges of the clash at Villa Park last weekend, the Traore netted his second goal in a week with a well-placed left-footed strike.

The Burkina Faso international will look to show Villa fans that the seven goals and seven assists he amassed in the 2020/21 season were no fluke and that he deserves a spot in Emery’s future plans.

In other Aston Villa news, the club has been told to seal the re-signing of an expensive player amid transfer news.