There are three players vying for a start: Barry Bannan, Marc Albrighton and Stephen Ireland. But for a minor niggle of his own, Jermaine Jenas would have been player No.4; he's said to have a chance of being fit to make his Villa debut in next week's League Cup tie against Bolton. I think the Newcastle game has come a few days too early for him, which is a shame - bringing Jenas into a three-man midfield alongside Stiliyan Petrov and Fabian Delph would have been a strong option.
Anyway, back to today, and McLeish's selection dilemma. The prime candidate to come in would be Bannan. He came off the bench to replace Heskey at Goodison Park, and going with him would represent the least disruption to the Villa manager's favoured line-up. Bannan would take up Heskey's (rather bemusing) central role, playing in the middle of the attacking trident, just behind Darren Bent.
Of course, Bannan and Heskey are entirely different players in just about way, one being a crafty, impish midfield playmaker with a super-sweet left foot, the other being a hulking, sometimes sulking, physical brute of a centre-forward. Bannan has all the gifts needed to play this classic No.10 role ('Barry sees pictures,' purred McLeish a couple of weeks ago) and I'm certain the young Scot can give Villa an extra dimension if he's granted the opportunity to cement a regular place in the team. Whether McLeish is brave enough to sacrifice strength for guile, and accommodate a player who could quite easily be tagged as a 'luxury' by those suspicious and distrustful of a certain type of footballer remains to be seen.
Albrighton also has a decent claim to start. I'm a big admirer of his, and had him in my first X1 at the start of the season. His form dipped towards the final third of last season - a consequence of losing his place - and he began this season somewhat rustily, with a couple of unremarkable substitution appearances. However, it was his pinpoint cross - cutting in from the left - that allowed Gabby Agbonlahor to head the second equaliser at Everton, and that moment will have given Albrighton a lift.
I like him, and I like the balance he brings to the side. He is, after all, the only natural right-sided midfielder/winger in the Villa squad. Albrighton would come in to the right side of the trio, Charles N'Zogbia could move across to the left, and that middle role would go to Gabby; he's not your typical No. 10 either, but is versatile enough to make it work, driving from a deeper position and using his pace to trouble Newcastle's defence.
Ireland is the outside bet. A roaming, central position is perfect for him, but his season hasn't really started firing yet. After last season's recriminations he is at least back in the squad - and it was encouraging to see his cameo appearance at Everton - but I don't think he's done enough to warrant a start, nor completely gain McLeish's trust. Yet.
I'm torn between Bannan and Albrighton. On form, Bannan deserves it slightly more, and he's more likely to provide midfield cover for Petrov and Delph. Albrighton would be the bolder selection, and going with him may just re-shuffle the formation to restore Gabby to a more central role, and N'Zogbia to where I feel he's most effective - wide left.
The question is, what will McLeish do? Despite a solid start to the season, Villa still need that spark of creativity, something to lift the crowd as much as anything else. Heskey's injury may just prove the catalyst for a positive change.