Eric Black gives glowing assessment of Newcastle and Rafael Benitez

Rafa Benitez 3

The Aston Villa caretaker manager says his side will come up against an exceptional team led by an exceptional manager this afternoon.

Aston Villa caretaker manager Eric Black has told reporters, as quoted by the club's official website, that his team will come up against a team full of "exceptional" players led by an "exceptional" manager when they host Newcastle United this afternoon.

Already-relegated Villa welcome the relegation-battling Magpies to Villa Park for their final home match of their Premier League era looking to record just a fourth league win of a miserable season.

The hosts have lost their last 11 league matches in a row - a club record - whilst Newcastle have enjoyed something of a late revival under Benitez.

The Tyneside club are unbeaten in their last four games, having taken eight points from that run, and have lifted themselves out of the bottom three for the first time since February at a crucial late point of the campaign.

Black acknowledged that the Magpies are struggling but warned his side that they will face a team full of quality despite Newcastle's struggles, and hailed the impact that Benitez has had at St. James' Park.

The Villa caretaker boss told reporters, as quoted on the Villa website: "Newcastle have exceptional players - I have watched their games back this week. They have good power and pace. They also have an exceptional manager who has managed at the very highest level.

"The ingredients are there to suggest they are a good team. I went up to watch them play Man City [in a 1-1 draw] and I saw a very organised side with good footballers in there.

"Rafa has good stature in the game and has gone in there and made a difference. They are four unbeaten now so he's obviously changed one or two things."

Newcastle fans will be desperate to see their side win to further enhance their survival challenge, but also as a form of revenge after Villa's taunting when the Birmingham club relegated them with a final-day win in 2009.

Magpies midfielder Jonjo Shelvey claimed on Friday that the fact that "don't get a lot of fans" in recent times can help the visitors, who will have a travelling support of 3,000 cheering them on at Villa Park.

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