This weekend in the Premier League
3. The battle against relegation
|AS IT STANDS
16. Aston Villa
However, Newcastle's 6-0 home loss to Liverpool on Saturday and Aston Villa 6-1 win over Sunderland at Villa Park threw the form book out of the window.
Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho led the Reds to their biggest win of the season and severely dented Newcastle's previously secure goal difference, before Christian Benteke netted a hat-trick to guide Villa to victory over the in-form Black Cats.
The result? A huge confidence boost for Paul Lambert's charges and Newcastle dropping to 17th place on goal difference.
Next up for Villa are a Norwich City team who have won just once in eight games and twice in the whole of 2013. A win over Reading on April 20 seems to have secured the Canaries' top-flight status for another year but a loss on Saturday would see the Villans leapfrog them and hit the magic 40-point mark.
|"As far as I am concerned the Sunderland game’s gone. You can’t live on that. You have to let that go and go on to the next one."
- Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert
Norwich won the same fixture last term but have not beaten Villa since, including a 4-1 home loss in the Capital One Cup in December.
Despite a dominating display last time out, Lambert still has a number of fitness issues concerning him; Ciaran Clark and Karim El Ahmadi missed the win over Sunderland, while Marc Albrighton and Gary Gardner are nearing first-team returns after layoffs.
|BET OF THE WEEKEND
|Jim Knight, Goal.com Betting Editor
Aston Villa managed a morale-boosting victory over Sunderland on Monday night and I think they can use that burst of confidence to get another positive result at Carrow Road. Norwich made their home a fortress this season and with only one defeat in thier last eight it's tough to back Villa at 2/1.
One man who showed his ability on Monday, though, was Christian Benteke. The Belgium international looks more than capable of causing Chris Hughton's men some serious problems at the back, his ability in the air in particular should mean he gets plenty of opportunities. With a hatrick against Sunderland taking his total to 18 for the season and the 13/8 with BetVictor is a big enough price for me.
Wigan conceded a last-gap equaliser to Tottenham last weekend as Emmerson Boyce turned into his own net to take two vital points away from his side, leaving them five adrift of safety.
The Latics do have a game in hand on the teams above them, however, which they will play against Swansea on Tuesday.
Next up is a West Brom side who have faltered of late with last weekend's 3-0 win over Southampton their first in five games. The Latics are unbeaten in five games against the Baggies, but have not won since 2011.
Roberto Martinez has something of a defensive crisis on his hands following Antolin Alcaraz's injury forcing him to the sidelines to join Maynor Figueroa and Ivan Ramis, but captain Gary Caldwell is hopeful of a return after recovering from another hip injury.
The situation at St James' Park is looking more and more desperate as the weeks drag on, and Saturday's heavy loss to a Luis Suarez-less Liverpool underlined the problems at Newcastle.
The club were forced to deny reports in the media of dressing room unrest on Wednesday, with the large contingent of French-speaking players thought to be causing a divide among the squad.
Newcastle will look to recover some form and pride away to West Ham on Saturday, where they are likely to come face to face with former player Andy Carroll.
The striker, who left the Magpies for Liverpool in a £35 million deal in January 2011, is enjoying something of a purple patch of late with four goals in his last five games and will be a handful for the Premier League's worst defence.
|"Every player is together. We have a strong bond and we want the best for our club. There is no divide in the team."
- Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse
West Ham won the reverse fixture earlier in the season, with another ex-player, Kevin Nolan, netting the only goal of the game and the Londoners will be confident again after pushing Manchester City all the way in a narrow 2-1 loss last weekend.
Defenders Fabricio Coloccini and Davide Santon are still injury doubts for Newcastle, while Mathieu Debuchy will serve his one-match ban after being sent off against Liverpool. James Tomkins is Sam Allardyce's only new fitness concern after he missed the trip to the Etihad Stadium.
"We have to make sure this week we are going to work with the blood in our eyes. Maybe now we need four or five [more] points."
Villa, Newcastle and the Black Cats all need just one more win to hit the 40-point mark of supposed guaranteed safety but it plausible that even such a points return could see a team relegated, so Di Canio will be keen to return to winning away as soon as possible.
Influential midfielder Stephane Sessegnon, and a player who has particularly impressed since the Italian's appointment, will not be seen for the remainder of the season after he was sent off at Villa Park, but Connor Wickham is hoping to be fit for the visit of Stoke on Monday night.
Sunderland have lost just once to the Potters in six games and they won the same fixture last term 4-0, but back-to-back wins over QPR and Norwich has drastically relieved the pressure on Tony Pulis' shoulders as Stoke now look all but assured of retaining their top-flight status for another season.