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Bruce: This should be a top-flight fixture

Newcastle United FC

Last season, Newcastle and Aston Villa were both Premier League teams but on Monday night, they meet at St. James’ Park in the Sky Bet Championship.

And while the Magpies are looking to bounce straight back following relegation last season, the Villans have lost seven of their eight fixtures in 2017.

But Steve Bruce, their Hexham-born manager, is hoping to kick-start their campaign on Tyneside.

He said: "Many would say this game should be in the Premier League but it isn't and that just shows you how difficult it is.

"They have done very well – settled team and settled position – and they will be difficult to beat.

"Rafa (Benitez) has brought well. He’s a hugely experienced man at the helm – I think securing him in the summer was possibly their biggest signing."

Bruce replaced Roberto Di Matteo in October and initially oversaw an upturn in form, but Villa are currently 16th in the table.

Asked who he turns to in difficult situations like the one he currently finds himself in, the ex-Sunderland boss joked: "The big man upstairs! Where are you? Where is he in my hour of need?

"I think that is always the difficult one – you, of course, rely on your staff who you work with day-in and day-out.

"And the one thing I have learnt over the years is that you can't get yourself too carried away.

"When you're up against it, you can't beat yourself up too much because I am the one who takes training, I am the one who leads the team meeting.

"If they see I am beaten up and done in, they will do the same."

"Rafa (Benitez) has brought well. He’s a hugely experienced man at the helm – I think securing him in the summer was possibly their biggest signing."

Steve Bruce, Aston Villa manager

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