Preview: Sunderland Take On Massive Midlands Side

Jamie McDonald

We jest, we jest... This Saturday's encounter with Aston Villa brings about a chance for us to get back to winning ways. If indeed we ever were in some sort of winning habit. Either way, a win is essential, and a defeat unthinkable. Here we bring you plenty of coverage of the game...

Sunderland Team News

Martin O'Neill rang the changes for the midweek encounter with Middlesbrough, and he will likely be bringing back some first team names against Aston Villa as we search for our second win of the season.

Simon Mignolet will obviously replace Keiren Westwood in goal, and in front of him there should be at least one change. We envisage Phil Bardsley, John O'Shea and Carlos Cuellar keeping their places in the side, but Danny Rose should replace Jack Colback on the left.

Where does this leave Craig Gardner though? It seems this might be the week he's pushed into midfield alongside Lee Cattermole, and we fully expect that to happen.

The rest of midfield however is something of a mystery. We have an inkling that Seb Larsson will start wide on the right, James McClean on the left with Stephane Sessegnon playing in support of Steven Fletcher, thus meaning Louis Saha and Adam Johnson drop to the bench.

Aston Villa Team News

Paul Lambert has a few injury worries to contend with for this one. Central defender Ciaran Clark will face a late fitness test tomorrow morning before it's deemed whether or not he can play in this one, but Richard Dunne and Gary Gardner are both long-term injury victims.

We expect Lambert to line his under-performing side in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Brad Guzan should start in goal ahead of Shay Given who returned midweek in the cup.

In front of him we'd expect to see a back four of Matt Lowton, Ron Vlaar, Joe Bennett and if Clark doesn't make it then Chris Herd.

Summer signing Karim El Ahmadi should partner Fabian Delph, and a front three in front of them of Marc Albrighton, Stephen Ireland and Brett Holman.

Leading the line will be Darren Be... Oh wait, that's not going to happen is it? Christian Benteke will lead the line, Darren will likely be on the bench. The kind of luxury that only comes at a 'Massive Club'.

Likely Lineups

Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley, O'Shea, Cuellar, Rose; Larsson, Cattermole, Gardner, McClean; Sessegnon, Fletcher.

Aston Villa: Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Bennett; El Ahmadi, Delph; Albrighton, Holman, Ireland; Benteke

Key Matchup: John O'Shea Vs Christian Benteke

It would be fair to say that O'Shea hasn't been in the best of form lately. In fact he's been rather rubbish, so it's going to be key that he picks things up this week against a difficult opponent in Benteke.

I've been impressed by the big Belgian. He has a good turn of pace, can finish and has a very physical style which could cause the immobile O'Shea problems. I'll back O'Shea to do well, but only because he's going to have Cuellar for help. I'd rather he was up against Bent to be honest. At least he's a bit more one dimensional.

Recent Form: DLLDW

Draw: Aston Villa 1-1 West Bromwich Albion (Long 51, Bent 80)

Lost: Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Aston Villa (Caulker 58, Lennon 67)

Lost: Fulham 1-0 Aston Villa (Baird 84)

Draw: Aston Villa 1-1 Norwich City (Benteke 26, Turner 79)

Win: Swindon 2-3 Aston Villa (Benteke 30, 90; Agbonlahor 39, Storey 78, 81)

Last Time Around: Sunderland 2-2 Aston Villa, 29/10/11

Last time at the Stadium Of Light we were treated to quite a game as we twice came from behind to eventually come away with a point under the tutelage of Steve Bruce.

Stilyan Petrov opened the scoring after just 20 minutes with a superb long range effort but Connor Wickham in a rare starting role scored his first for the club and a very well deserved equaliser.

This was also the game where Simon Mignolet's face was inverted by colliding with Emile Heskey, leading to a start for Keiren Westwood. Westy did well to deny Darren Bent a goal, but was helpless to stop Richard Dunne powering in another for the visitors.

Stephane Sessegnon got us out of jail however in the final minute, somehow getting his head on the ball to nod in an equaliser from six yards out.

The Ref: Mike Jones

The 44-year old take charge of his seventh Premier League game of the season, and he's been quite card-happy in the previous six games.

He's managed to hand out at least four cards in all but two of them, although is yet to send anyone off in the Premier League. So far he's only dished out one penalty too, in Chelsea's 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic on the opening day.

Jones, in his career so far has reffed ten Sunderland games, with us winning only three, drawing one and losing six. He's never given a penalty for or against us, but has dished us out a whopping 31 cards, including 1 red.

What The Managers Said

Martin O'Neill:

Naturally I expect a very difficult game. They had a very fine resul in midweek and succeeded where we didn't in getting through to the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup, so that will stand them in good stead.

I know the manager very well. We worked together as manager and player at Celtic and I've got much regard for him. I've got no doubt that despite the sticky start he will pull things round.

Paul Lambert:

Martin and Ottmar Hitzfeld are two of the best managers I ever played under. I absolutely loved playing under Martin.

He could just get the best out of people. That was his biggest thing. His man-management was brilliant.

Roker Report Predicts

It's not going to be easy, and the form book suggests this will be an absolute snoozefest of a game. This is why I think we can win big. Nothing has been as expected this season, and wouldn't it just be "incredibly Sunderland" if we went out and walloped them? It sounds stupid, but I'm going for a 3-0 win for us. They're not good, neither are we, but I'd like to think we pulled our socks up, got behind the lads and willed them to victory... Before inevitably getting beat of Everton the week after, but we'll worry about that later.

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