On March 14th, Aston Villa travel up north to the Stadium of Light to take on Sunderland. With only a point separating the two sides this is a key match in the relegation battle. After back to back wins over local rivals West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa look re-energized under Tim Sherwood. They scored more than one goal in a league match for the first time since December 7th in their last league outing, and there’s nothing like back to back derby wins to get your team out of a rut, especially when one of them sends you to Wembley. Sunderland have been embroiled in controversy over the past two weeks. They’ve had to deal with the Adam Johnson situation as well as Gus Poyet getting into trouble with the FA. The Uruguayan manager was charged by the FA after being sent off during their match against Hull and then confronting Steve Bruce. The teams look like they could be headed in different directions. The result of this match could change the feeling in either camp and possibly be a big decider in if either of these teams get relegated.
Despite the good feeling of derby wins and booking a trip to Wembley, Aston Villa do have some problems, especially when it comes to injuries. The Villains could have as many as eight players missing for this match. Captain Ron Vlaar and their star striker, Christian Benteke, could come back for this match, but they will both face late fitness tests. Philippe Senderos, Nathan Baker, Aly Cissokho, and Kieran Richardson could all come back into the squad, but they too will have to prove their fitness before the match. They will definitely be without Libor Kozak and Chris Heard as they both have long term injuries.
Sunderland are on the other end of the spectrum and have most of their players fit. Billy Jones is their only player that will have to face a late fitness test. This game looks to be coming just a week to early for winger Will Buckley who is still not fit from his knee injury. Emanuele Giaccherini will miss the rest of this season as he continues to recover from his ankle injury that requires surgery.
Only one goal has been scored in the last three meetings between the two sides. Multiple goals have only been scored once in the last six meetings between these two. There have been five red cards in the last eight meetings between the two. Sunderland have failed to Villa in their last seven attempts.
Sunderland: Jermain Defoe
Sunderland have been struggling for goals all season with strikers like Jozy Altidore and Steven Fletcher being unable to get them the goals they need. So, the black cats made a big splash in January paying big money to bring Jermain Defoe back to the Premier League. The veteran striker started well with two goals in his first three league matches, but he has failed to score in his last four appearances. He has only scored twice in nine appearances in all competitions and has only scored with 10% of his shots. Sunderland are paying Defoe big money to get them the goals to stay up, but he hasn’t been doing that job recently and needs to step up if Sunderland are to stay up.
Aston Villa: Fabian Delph
It’s been a big season for Fabian Delph so far. He got his first England call up in August, made his full England debut in September, and signed a new four and a half year contract at Villa in January. Now he has to be one of the leaders in Villa’s charge to avoid relegation. The Englishman is now Villa’s vice captain and must prove why he was given the vice captaincy and produce some season saving performances in the coming weeks. He did his job against West Brom over the weekend scoring the winning goal to send Villa to Wembley. Now he has to continue to put in good performances to help Tim Sherwood’s side stay in the Premier League.
I can’t see a whole lot of goals in this one. Neither team has been good in front of goal this season and I don’t see that changing today. I’m thinking that this match will come down to one goal. It just depends which side is going to get that one goal. Sunderland have looked really poor in recent weeks and Villa will be buoyed by their last two results, so I’m going to go with a narrow Villa win.
Prediction: 1-0 Villa