Newcastle showing form to match odds

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United (top-priced at 4-6 with Ladbrokes) looked appalling value at 4-1 for the Premiership after a dismal start to the season, but are in cracking form at present.

After victories at Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United in recent weeks, they are now a best-priced 11-4 with Ladbrokes. That is very short but there is now no doubt that Kevin Keegan's squad are going to make a bold bid for honours this season, and they should contain Aston Villa at St James' Park tonight.

Villa showed they are among the Premiership big boys when holding the favourites, Manchester Untied, to a 0-0 draw at Villa Park last Saturday. But their dismal European efforts against the part-timers Helsingborgs in the Uefa Cup will have damaged morale and they face a tough task this evening.

Newcastle, admittedly, did not cut much ice with the critics when going down 2-1 to Halmstads in the second leg of their Uefa Cup tie last week, but they coasted through the tie 5-2 on aggregate and can be forgiven for perhaps being a little more lethargic than usual on the away leg.

The bookmakers are unimpressed by Damon Hill's decision to join the TWR Arrows team in Formula One racing next season. Hill, the 1-10 favourite (with Ladbrokes) to lift this year's drivers' championship, is 66-1 with Ladbrokes to win next year's championship in a TWR Arrows car. Ladbrokes also offer 6-1 on Hill winning any grand prix in an Arrows car next year.

Ladbrokes report that a punter has put pounds 4,000 on Jacques Villeneuve to nick this year's title off Hill at the death. To do so, Villeneuve must win the only remaining grand prix, at Suzuka in Japan on 13 October, with Hill out of the points completely.