Sunderland Team News
Aston Villa Team News
Paul Lambert has a clutch of players nearing full fitness after Antonio Luna and Gary Gardner returned to training this week, and Gabriel Agbonlahor, Fabian Delph and Andreas Weimann all made comebacks in Monday's 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion.
In both Weimann and Agbonlahor, Lambert will have players who scored the last time the two teams met at his disposal.
Elsewhere, Marc Albrighton has returned from a loan spell at Wigan Athletic and may be an option from the bench.
Sunderland: Mannone; Celustka, O'Shea, Brown, Bardsley; Ki; Johnson, Cattermole, Colback, Giaccherini; Fletcher
Aston Villa: Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark, Baker; Westwood; Sylla, El Ahmadi; Weimann; Benteke, Agbonlahor
Key Matchup: Wes Brown Vs Christian Benteke
Given the events of last season's visit to Villa Park, it almost goes without saying that preventing Benteke of any decent service will go some way towards Sunderland gaining a result.
Despite not scoring in his last six games, Benteke's aerial prowess and ability to turn in close spaces to shoot still need close attention. Brown's anticipation and composure since he has returned to the Sunderland back line has been exemplary - perhaps too exemplary if last week's botched red card is anything to go by - and he will need to be alert again this weekend.
Recent Form: DLLDWD
Draw: Hull City 0-0 Aston Villa
Lost: Aston Villa 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Townsend 31, Soldado 69)
Lost: Aston Villa 0-2 Everton (Lukaku 68, Osman 81)
Draw: West Ham United 0-0 Aston Villa
Win: Aston Villa 2-0 Cardiff City (Bacuna 76, Kozak 84)
Draw: West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Aston Villa (Long 3, 11; El Ahmadi 67, Westwood 76)
Last Time Around: Aston Villa 6-1 Sunderland, 29/04/1013
Yes. Really. Paolo Di Canio's re-enactment of ‘Charge of the Light Brigade' saw Sunderland ride into Villa Park seemingly without a midfield and the hosts were rampant. Benteke got three - even Ron Vlaar scored.
The Ref: Neil Swarbick
It would take some doing for Sunderland to have a man sent off in three successive away games, especially as Swarbick only showed one red card in the whole of last season.
The Lancashire-based ref has officiated Sunderland on six times, with a record of W2 L3 D1. Here's hoping we can balance that out.
What The Managers Said
They are a very difficult team to play against.
They have options, they can change their system and they play with power, speed and youth.
It’s going to be tough; it’s not an easy run and there are plenty of important games coming up. The team is getting better and we need to believe.
The sooner we win a game the better for us and we have a great opportunity on Saturday.
You have to battle through it. It's not a nice place to be but there's still a long, long way to go.
It's hard to judge because Gus has only been there for a few weeks and you're never quite sure. You don't know the lads he's got there.
They've had a hard start. The last time we played them we won pretty convincingly at that time and everything we hit went in. We're certainly playing well enough to go and win but we'll have to wait and see how Sunderland are.
Roker Report Predicts
Improvement on the road - it simply has to get better and there were signs of that happening last week against Stoke City. Villa haven't scored in their last two home games, and have only won 2/6 this season. However, we'll plump on the side of caution, and opt for a 1-1 draw.