By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
One point and one place separate Newcastle and Tuesday night's opponents Aston Villa and Magpies manager Alan Pardew has warned his side to expect a "fight" at Villa Park.
Paul Lambert's men are still reeling from exiting the FA Cup at the hands of Millwall on Friday night, hot on the heels of missing out on a place in the Capital One Cup final to League Two Bradford City.
Those two humiliating defeats added to a season of struggle in the Barclays Premier League but Villa were impressive in earning a 1-1 draw at St. James' Park in September and Pardew believes they have more quality than recent results would suggest.
"It's a fine line," he insisted. "I was at the fixture, the second leg between Bradford and Aston Villa, and Aston Villa played superbly and could have taken a two-goal lead into half-time.
"If they'd done that, they'd find themselves in a cup final and probably have a different result in the (FA) Cup too. That's the lines that we all live and die by. That didn't happen so now they've got a fight on to stay in the Premier League - as we have.
"And that's what the game will be: it'll be a fight game, a game with two professional teams really, really fighting for a victory."
Pardew is boosted by the arrivals of Moussa Sissoko, Massadio Haidara, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Yoan Gouffran and has hinted that three of them could make their United bow in Birmingham.
And he hopes to have Papiss Cisse available despite the striker picking up a knock in training, with the boss well aware that Villa have decent attacking options themselves.
He said: "It's an even game in my opinion. I think they've got fantastic offensive players and are probably looking for a little bit more solidness and a strength in the defence rather than their attacking flair.
"I think the home side always has an advantage regardless of how the crowd react. It's about putting them in a positive mood and that's what Paul will be trying to do with his team.
"They've played very, very well in periods of games but it's putting it together for 90 minutes and you could put the same criticism at our door."