After a bad Boxing Day for both sides involved in this fixture, Aston Villa will hope to make amends when they take on Sunderland at Villa Park on Sunday afternoon.
Villa suffered a disappointing defeat to Swansea City on Boxing Day but will have some positives to reflect on coming into this match, given that they managed to get a draw when they last played at home against Manchester United. Paul Lambert will surely see this game against Sunderland as an opportunity for his team to return to winning ways and climb the table once again.
Sunderland lost 3-1 at home to Hull City on Boxing Day and this was a far cry from their winning performance against Newcastle United at St James’ Park. Gus Poyet will undoubtedly be preparing his players to play in much the same way as they did in that game, and similarly to their Villa counterparts, the team will surely see this as a winnable game.
Both teams are just one place and one point apart in the league table so a win could either create a cushion for Villa, or a chance to move up the table for Sunderland.
Joe Cole could return for Aston Villa this weekend but only if he can pass a late fitness test. It is looking more likely that Philippe Senderos and Nathan Baker will have to wait until Christmas Day before they are able to feature again. Libor Kozak and Ashley Westwood are both out for the next few weeks at least.
Sunderland only have two injuries in the form of Anthony Reveillere and Patrick van Aanholt, both will be unavailable until mid-January at the earliest.
Aston Villa beat Sunderland the last time they met in the Premier League.
However, the last time they played at Villa Park, the game finished at 0-0.
Sunderland can leapfrog Aston Villa and Everton with a win, at least temporarily.
Poyet’s side have only won one of their last six league games.
The Villa captain has made 10 appearances in the league so far and has proven to be one of the best defenders in the league once again. Looking at all the duels he has been involved in so far, he has a 52% success rate. When you look at this in more detail, he has won six of the 10 tackles he has attempted and four of the five take-ons he has been involved in. However, he has won less than half of the headed duels he has fought for. Unsurprisingly for a defender, he has committed more fouls than he has suffered. On average, Vlaar makes eight defensive actions per game. Across the season, this amounts to him making 60 clearances and 17 interceptions, as well as five blocks. So far, he has not made any defensive errors either which is good considering how often Villa seem to be on the back foot. If Vlaar can keep the Villa defence organised and disciplined against Sunderland, then there is no reason they cannot keep a clean sheet.
Johnson was the hero for Sunderland last weekend when he helped them defeat Newcastle, and he could do the same against Villa on Sunday. He has made 15 appearances for Sunderland so far this season and has scored three goals. He has a shooting accuracy of 50% after attempting 12 shots at goal. The midfielder has been able to create 18 chances for his team mates but so far none of them have resulted in assists. He has completed 305 passes in the league so far, meaning he has a 79% passing accuracy. Of these passes, 70% were forward passes. He has a reasonably good success rate where duels are concerned, winning 59% of them overall. He has attempted to take on opponents 38 times and has been successful on 25 occasions. Johnson has the potential to be a match winner for Sunderland and he can make sure of this on Sunday.
Both Aston Villa and Sunderland could do with a win and will be fighting for it on Sunday. However, I think their respective strengths will cancel each other out and so the game will result in a 1-1 draw, in my opinion.