Sandwiched between the drama and excitement of Champions League and Europa League draws and the relatively repulsive international break, Premier League football will resume its job of providing entertainment and purpose to the weekend when Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa will welcome everyone’s relegation favorite, Sunderland football club. The Villains, following an eight-goal thriller against Notts County in the League Cup, will be looking forward to take the momentum into the weekend and pile more misery on Dick Advocaat and his struggling Sunderland side. They have now lost back-to-back games in the league against Manchester United and Crystal Palace meaning anything but a win at home against the Black Cats should be deemed a bad result.
Sunderland have started poorly as usual as Dick Advocaat’s men have picked up just one point out of a possible nine and find themselves in the drop zone as early as game-week four. The Black Cats managed to arrest the rot in the league last weekend with a creditable draw at home to Swansea City as Jermain Defoe’s second-half strike cancelled out Bafetimbi Gomis’s fine opening goal. But then things did get better for the Mackems in midweek, thanks to an entertaining 6-3 victory over Exeter City in the League Cup second round which should give the side a much needed morale boost ahead of a tricky encounter at Villa Park.
Gary Gardner and Jores Okore are both sidelined for Aston Villa due to ankle and knee injuries respectively. Adama Traore, whose cross led to a Pape Souare own goal against Palace, is a doubt for Villa after picking up an ankle problem in the Notts County fixture. Meanwhile, the manager is likely to recall a number of first-team players after resting them in midweek.
Possible Starting Line-ups
Guzan; Bacuna, Richards, Clark, Amavi; Gueye, Westwood, Sanchez; Agbonlahor, Gestede, Sinclair (4-3-3)
Defender Younes Kaboul is expected to miss the trip to midlands for Sunderland while Jeremain Lens (knee) – an influential figure against Swansea – could be Sunderland’s biggest injury concern at the moment.
Pantilimon; Jones, van Aanholt, O’Shea, Coates; Cattermole, Rodwell, M’Vila, Lens; Defoe; Graham (4-4-1-1)
Sunderland 0 – 4 Aston Villa
Aston Villa 0 – 0 Sunderland
Sunderland 0 – 1 Aston Villa
Aston Villa 0 – 0 Sunderland
Aston Villa 6 – 1 Sunderland
- Aston Villa lead the head-to-head record between these teams, winning 70 of their 166 encounters against Sunderland
- Sunderland last won at Villa Park in 2011.
Scott Sinclair – Aston Villa
Aston Villa have been impressive at the back this season, conceding just twice in their three games so far in the league. But the same cannot be said for their performances at the other end of the pitch, with just two goals scored in 270 minutes of Premier League action. But with 5 goals scored in midweek, including a hat-trick from winger Scott Sinclair could not have at the right time as Villa will need their forward players to do more of the same during the weekend, than they have been doing the past three weeks. Scott Sinclair who could be a key figure for Sherwood’s men in the coming games said,
“It’s our final match before the international break. From my experience, psychologically it’s so important to win the game beforehand. When members of the squad go away to represent their countries and the rest of the lads are back at Bodymoor working, it’s a couple of weeks before we all come back together. It’s a long time before the next game, especially if you haven’t got the desired result. If you’ve won, everyone returns in a jovial mood and is buzzing. You’re then ready to go again. I believe it makes a massive difference.”
Jack Rodwell – Sunderland
Much has been made of Sunderland’s dismal start to the league but in Jack Rodwell, the Black Cats have got a real all-rounder in the middle of the park. The English midfielder was among the goals in midweek as Sunderland saw off a stern challenge from lower league opponents Exeter City and the focus will now be on getting that first win on board as quick as possible and what better time to do it than before the international break. Advocaat’s men have the worst defensive record in the top flight this season, leaking eight goals in their three matches and Rodwell seems to have identified it and vows on behalf of the side to work on improving it. In a recent interview, he said,
“It’s been a strange start to the season and defensively, there’s a lot to work on. We’re letting far too many goals in but the flip side is that we’re causing teams problems and scoring goals of our own. Jermain Defoe has scored five already so we know that if we can just tighten things up, we’ve got someone at the other end who is bang in form.”
Sunderland’s defensive shortcomings could prove the difference between the two teams in what could be a really scrappy affair.
Aston Villa 2-1 Sunderland