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Shelvey looking up the table as United prepare to entertain Villans

Written by Dan King

Jonjo Shelvey says Newcastle can start looking up, rather than down, following Sunday's 3-0 win over Sheffield United - but has warned the Magpies to be wary of relegation-threatened Aston Villa as they head to St. James' Park on Wednesday night.

Steve Bruce's side now have 38 points with eight Premier League games remaining, starting with the visit of Dean Smith's Villans, who are currently in the bottom three. 

And while they will be fighting tooth and nail for an away win to boost their survival hopes, Shelvey feels that his own team can begin to set their sights far higher after their weekend victory. 

"It was a massive, massive win," said the England international midfielder, who remains United's leading league goalscorer this term. "Obviously we didn't know what it would be like playing behind closed doors but I felt we handled it very well.

"It was just a massive win because a lot of teams around us had won at the weekend, so it was important to try and get off to good start."

John Egan was sent off early in the second half with the score still 0-0 and Allan Saint-Maximin quickly put Newcastle in front before Matt Ritchie and Joelinton got on the scoresheet.

And Shelvey said: "We went to Southampton (in the final game before football was suspended in March) and they got a man sent off as well, so for the last two games we've played against ten men.

"It definitely helped us in a way - obviously it freed up a lot more space for our wide men to get on the ball. Sheffield United are a very good team, very physical, so it was a battle, but luckily we made the man advantage work."

Record signing Joelinton's strike was his first in the top flight since the Brazilian scored the winner at Tottenham in August.

"We know how hard he works during the week and how much time and effort he puts in to staying behind and working on shooting and stuff like that," explained Shelvey. "We knew it was going to come - it was just a matter of time.

"I don't think the price tag has probably helped him, coming here and not hitting the ground running, but that does happen with players coming into the English league.

"But he's settled in great this year and he's just one of the lads, always joking around; it didn't really seem to get to him, he's still making runs and getting the opportunities. It hadn't fallen his way but hopefully it'll be like London buses now - where one comes and then they all come, fingers crossed."

Shelvey hopes that Joelinton can finish the campaign strongly and the same applies to the rest of the team, with United now 11 points clear of the bottom three and two points behind tenth-placed Arsenal after putting the Blades to the sword on Sunday.

"Before the game it was a sense of every team was winning around us so this was the game where we needed to go out and get that three points," said Shelvey.

"We're 11 points clear of the relegation zone now and I feel that's us safe, but I feel that from now - we spoke about it at training today - we're going to be looking up and trying to get to get into that top ten, and I feel with the squad that we've got we can do it, and with the fixtures we've got we can do it."

The first of those fixtures is the visit of Villa, who lost 2-1 to Chelsea last time out, on Wednesday (kick-off 6pm BST). 

"I got back home after our game and watched the game against Chelsea, and I thought they were a bit unlucky not to get something," admitted Shelvey.

"They beat us at their place - that was a tough game down there - so it's going to be good game. They've had two games to get used to no fans and things like that, and they've got some top players, so it's going to be tough one."

Both of Villa's goals in November came from set pieces, with Conor Hourihane drilling home a free kick before setting up the second for Anwar El Ghazi three minutes later from another dead ball.

And Shelvey revealed: "We spent about half an hour, 40 minutes today going through the set pieces and stuff like that, because we know their strength from set pieces.

"But I think they're up there for conceding as many at set pieces, so it works both ways. We worked long and hard on the set pieces today because we know what great delivery they've got. That's something we needed to shore up on, to be fair, and we put that into place against Sheffield United."

While supporters will not be able to attend the stadium on Wednesday night, the match will be broadcast live on BT Sport.

For the latest coronavirus guidance, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus.

"We're going to be looking up and trying to get to get into that top ten, and I feel with the squad that we've got we can do it."

Jonjo Shelvey

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